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WATCH: New school year, who this? Pedal power as Limerick schools reopen after Covid closure

CHILDREN chomping at the bit to reunite with friends after a long and weary break at Limerick School Project arrived in smart and environmental fashion, as over a dozen mounted the O’Connell Avenue footpath with their well-oiled bicycles this Friday morning.

As the peloton broke through Clontarf Place, one after another, there was chatter among parents, praising the youngins leading the charge. Like the collegial part of a Tour de France flat race, or the journey to work or a coffee on some plaza in Northern Europe, where this activity would not get a second glance. 

As part of Limerick City and County Council’s move to create a segregated lane on Shannon Bridge, in line with the Covid-19 mobility plan, the Limerick School Cycle Bus—led by northside parents—can finally safely usher their children into school.

It means parents can leave the gas guzzlers at home and enjoy the Tour de Limerick without major concern, and get in the workout, too. New school year, who dis (as they say). 

Farranshone mum and cyclist campaigner, Anne Cronin was able to enjoy the cycle with her children Bobbie and Zoe this Friday morning. She said the people in the northside now have “a safe, segregated route into town, whether it is to school or to work or for leisure. I think, for years, that has been the blockage. The bridges have been identified as hostile to cyclists.”

Conor Buckley, from Thomondgate, and dad of Oscar and Mannix, says it was great for the kids to return after the six-month hiatus. 

And while parents have been anxious about the return to school, the staff and board of management have been commended for their efforts in making the primary school Covid-ready in such a short space of time. 

“It’s really tough on everybody,” Anne admits. “It’s tough on teachers, on principals, trying to get the schools ready. It felt a little bit rushed, for sure. I think, in an ideal world, it would be great if there was more time spent on planning and making sure that the schools that needed prefabs and needed additional space, were able to do that and had the time to put it together.

“But, look it, everybody is trying to create the ideal conditions. And as long as the kids and the teachers and us as parents, as well, adhere to the real key guidelines and the principles that have been sent out to us, then we’ll do as best as we can.”

The Government has come under intense scrutiny this week as schools reopen their doors since they were among the first institutions to close up shop at the onset of the pandemic. 

Concerns have been primarily centred around safe space for distancing; the availability of appropriate accommodation; funding for minor works; and the extent of communication between the schools and parents. 

But Conor, who also travelled with the morning peloton, reckons the school has “done a really good job” in preparing the school with the new arrangements. 

“You would be anxious. But I think the school and the board of management have done great work here on the school. We’ve had meetings, we’ve all discussed what the restrictions and stuff are and how we can work together. They’ve seemed to have done a really good job. The kids are really excited to be back, so we just need to see how it plays out, you know?”

And for as long as the bell rings to start their day, the children will continue to chime their own bells on the safe journey to school.

Additional video footage provided by Conor Buckley, Limerick School Cycle Bus

Photo by Brendan Gleeson

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