As per my previous correspondence, you are aware that the BOM & staff of Rath NS have been working hard to ensure a safe return to school for all. These measures are recorded in our Covid Repsonse Plan and Covid-19 Statement Policy, including a Risk Assessment, but I know you are more concerned about the practical issues surrounding back to school and what school will look like On September 1st.
The following is a list of information points for you to note. We will be talking through all these points with our pupils when they return so that they will be familiar with the system and I’m sure we will fall into a steady routine of good practice.
All decisions taken have been done in accordance to current NPHET & Department of education guidelines, balanced with the wellbeing of our pupils in Rath NS. Many are just interim measures and are likely to change, as time goes on. We will continue to monitor & review our practices and keep up to date with NPHET guidelines
Class Allocations (Slight change)
To use the Dept terms each classroom will be treated as a “bubble” with “pods” or groups within the room. The idea is that each bubble (classroom) works & plays together in so far as is possible without mixing with another bubble.
Juniors & Seniors: Ms Bébhinn Granaghan (with Mrs Kate Nolan until October) Maureen Whooley, SNA will also be assisting in this room.
1st Class: Ms Suzy McCarthy (in same prefab as last year)
2nd Class: Ms Evelyn Harrington/ Ms Dee Griffiths (job share) assisted by Flor McEvoy, SNA
3rd Class: Ms Maeve O’ Sullivan
4th Class: Ms Máire O’ Donovan (in library prefab with new toilet installed adjacent)
5th & 6th Class: Ms Maura Collins
We will also be part of a cluster group for principal leadership & management days which means that we will have a supply teacher one day per week who will teach 5th & 6th. Day & person to be confirmed. Principal Admin teacher: Mr Colm O’ Mahony
Shared SET teacher: Ms Odharnait Collins
Ms Collins will continue to withdraw pupils for support teaching and will also assist in team teaching in the senior bubble. Withdrawn pupils will only mix with pupils in their own classroom in the support classroom. Ms Collins will have cleaning time in between each pupil to ensure the work station is ready to reduce the risk of spread of Covid.
Social Distancing of 1 metre is expected in 3rd to 6th class. This can be of individual children or of groups of children within the class. The biggest grouping will be in 5th & 6th so individual desks will be used for 6th class with 5th class grouped. All classrooms have become more streamlined with the removal of unnecessary furniture to utilise our space fully. Adults are expected to maintain a 2metre distance from each other and children where possible. Masks will be worn by teachers & SNAs at all times indoors, unless a clear 2m distance can be maintained. Other PPE gear will only be worn if someone falls ill or if first aid or intimate care needs have to be attended to.
School arrival and dismissal times have not changed. To the best of our knowledge school buses will run as normal, with their own regulations in place. Pupils arriving by bus or car will disembark and proceed directly to their own classroom from 9am onwards. Teachers will be in their classrooms at this time and there will be no outside morning play. Formal instruction will begin at 9.20am. At 3pm, as per current practice, pupils will leave school in an orderly fashion starting with 6th class and working down to 1st class. Parents should try to remain in their cars as much as possible for drop off and collection but maintain 2 metres social distance if not.
Infant pick up at 2pm
We ask all those collecting infants at 2pm (12 noon for the first two weeks) to remain in their cars. Ms Granaghan will escort the children up to the gate and only then will you stand out of your car. Please maintain a distance of 2 metres from other parents and no younger siblings can be inside school gates or on equipment. Ms Granaghan will also be at the gates for arrival for the first few weeks to help the new infants in particular to settle in ease the transition of saying goodbye to their parents.
Sanitising & Hygiene
Automatic Sanitisers have been installed in every classroom along with the existing ones in our hallways. Good hand hygiene will be re-taught and practiced throughout the school, as will cough & sneeze etiquette. Sanitiser will be used upon entry to school, before & after break times & toilet breaks, before & after use of shared equipment/PE, after coughing or sneezing and before home time. This will become a natural routine of our day. Hot water and soap are provided in all bathrooms and classrooms also with disposable towels and/or hand driers. Personal sanitiser is not necessary but a child can have their own if they prefer for in between times. A packet of tissues in their school bags is also recommended for each child.
Teachers and staff will clean desktops, work tops, door handles & other high use areas every day. Floors & toilets will also be cleaned daily by the caretaker.
A weekly deep clean of the whole school will also take place every weekend by contract cleaners.
Play is an integral part of a child’s learning so we plan to still incorporate Aistear (with some restrictions) in the infant room and junior classrooms. Any shared equipment, toys or books in all classrooms will either be cleaned daily or taken out of circulation for 72 hours before use again by another group of children. Most shared equipment used for now will be of a wipeable material so we can disinfect it regularly.
Each classroom will be assigned a toilet block to be used only by those in the classroom so rather than single sex toilets, we will now have communal toilets for each bubble to eliminate the mixing of groups. As per current practice, only one child will use the bathroom at a time. All toilets have been painted and freshened up to accommodate these changes. (All will be fully explained to pupils upon return)
There has been no change to our uniform and the usual flexibility remains in wearing a combination of school trousers/skirt/dress, school shorts or school sports shorts along with polo shirts & jumper, sweater or cardigan.
As the weather gets colder we encourage children to layer up under their uniform. They are also permitted to wear plain navy or grey tracksuit pants with their uniform if feeling cold.
It is recommended however, by the Dept of Education, that uniform is removed immediately after school and is not worn to after school activities, shops etc. Daily washing is not mandatory!
Break times will be staggered into two blocks.
Junior Infants, Senior Infants, 1st & 2nd class will remain with the regular breaks of 11-11.10 and 12.30 to 1pm.
3rd to 6th class will have the new times of 11.20-11.30 and 1.05- 1.35pm.
Classroom bubbles will be assigned yard & grass space each which will rotate daily so that everyone gets ample space to play yard games, walk & run around, explore the garden etc throughout the week. The car park (with no cars!) will be used along with the climbing frame and slides as one zone. Zone 2 will be the smaller tarmac, the “bars”, picnic bench & spinner and the final area will be the larger tarmac, the buddy bench, sensory garden and garden café. Again, all this will be fully explained to all pupils and will become the norm really quickly. We are very much cognisant of children’s well being and re socialisation back into the school community and the important role that play and interaction have in this. 1 metre markers will be displayed around the school grounds just so that children are familiar with them but social distancing within their bubbles will not be enforced during break time.
Each break will be supervised by two adults and the equipment will be sprayed down between each break.
Teaching and Learning
As a staff, we are very aware that the children have been away from school since March 12th. We appreciate the time and effort that went into Home Learning, and we recognise the challenges that Home Learning presented for all families.
Each child will be a different place in relation to his/her learning, and we wish to assure you that staff will take that into consideration when planning for Teaching and Learning during the 2020/2021 school year. The Department of Education and Skills has published Curriculum guidelines for us, and we ask you to trust our experience and professional expertise as we work with all the children during the return to school.
Our homework policy is currently being revisited. It is envisaged that this will be a set formula for the week with possibly a mixture of online and certain books. It will be minimal to begin with to ease pupils back into the routine of it.
*All teachers have since been in contact with individual class groups & parents regarding their homework.
We will be using Google Classroom going forward as a communication tool or home school link especially with project work in senior classrooms. Senior classes will be taught how to use these online tools and to become more independent in their use of same. We hope that we don’t have a scenario like that of March 12th again but at least going forward we will be more prepared should school closures occur. We also envisage using this platform for children who may have to remain at home to keep up with their learning.
Illness and Dealing with a Suspected Case of COVID-19
We love to see all of our children at school every day. However, under the current circumstances, parents/guardians must keep children at home if they display any Covid-19 Symptoms. https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/symptoms.html
- High temperature
- Shortness of breath or breathing difficulties
- Loss of smell, of taste or distortion of taste
The best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in a school is to minimise the risk of introduction of the disease into the school setting in the first place so we really appreciate your cooperation on this matter.
Should a child or staff member present with symptoms in school, they will be removed to our First Aid room (Isolation room) in our Assisted User wheelchair WC. The ill person’s temperature will be taken and we will ask for the child to be collected as soon as is possible. You can consult your GP afterwards for more information and advice. It is imperative that we have up to date contact details for parents & childminders for this reason and that you have a back up plan in place for days when you know you will not be able to collect your child. PPE will be worn by those assisting the child and the isolation room will be thoroughly cleaned afterwards.
In accordance with public health advice, the board asks that if anyone in a household is being tested, pupils or staff living in the same household also remain at home until test results are received. Depending on result, further guidelines will be followed.
Visitors will not be allowed enter the school unless it is a prearranged appointment. Unfortunately for now, this includes all parents too! We will have a “Drop box” at the main gate for any forgotten items such as lunches, coats etc. Once you have dropped the item, you text 0868641531 and your child will collect the item afterwards.
A similar scenario will arise if you are collecting your child early. We ask that you remain in your car and text the above number when outside school. We will inform your child so that he or she knows when to walk up to the car. This must always be followed up by a note or email to firstname.lastname@example.org explaining early collection. Texts should come from existing parental phone details and for child protection purposes, explicit permission must be given if someone else is collecting your child. Should a visitor enter the school with permission, for example a tradesman or BOM member, a full contact tracing log will be recorded and kept. Due to social distancing restrictions, there is currently no office space until our extension is completed. Our secretary Deirdre will be working from home and after school hours.
As we do not have an intercom service in school, teachers will be using their own mobiles for interclass communication, sharing information such as early collection of pupils, rota for use of outdoor space or shared equipment etc.
A storage box has been purchased for each child for all their books & personal belongings. Sharing is not caring at the moment so it is really important that all your child’s belongings are clearly labelled and we will help them store them appropriately in their boxes. School bags will contain very little, mainly lunches, drinks and pencil cases. Books will be either assigned for home or remain in school.
Change of clothes
The use of outdoors is now more important than ever as the risk of spreading of Covid 19 is reduced and fresh air & ventilation also reduces risk. We plan to get the children out as much as possible so we would ask that children always have a coat in school. We also ask each child to bring a set of spare clothes (not uniform) to school in a labelled zip lock bag to use should they need to change. This will remain in school for the year.
The possibility of facilitating extra-curricular activities such as Music, Dancing, Coaching for games, Safe Cycling course, etc. will be explored. However, should they go ahead, children will remain within their bubbles for such activities.
*music has since restarted with Ms French in the astro turf. The “fogging machine” is used in between sessions to sanitise the area.
As always we fully welcome communication from parents, especially at these times of change and uncertainty. Face to face meetings can be organised with prior notice. Otherwise we aim to remain using our email addresses that we used during school closures so this is the best way to contact individual teachers. These are:
General queries can be emailed to the main school account email@example.com
I am aware that this is an enormous amount of information to take in and it may seem overwhelming at the moment but rest assured we have put a huge amount of thought and preparation into this return to school plan. Safety of pupils and staff is of paramount importance and this has underpinned these new procedures and structures in school. I am confident that once these new routines are established, things will run quite smoothly and it will become second nature to us all. It is the balancing of good practice with common sense. Pupil & staff wellbeing is also at the centre of our procedures. We will be promoting:
• A sense of safety
• A sense of calm
• A sense of belonging and connectedness to school
• A sense of self-efficacy and school-community efficacy
• A sense of hope
Children always take their lead from us parents so please try to remain positive and encouraging in this new approach to school life. We are really looking forward to welcoming all our lovely pupils back.
We’ll get through this together, pupils, staff, board and parents!
With every good wish for the year ahead,
Chairperson, Board of Management
COVID-19 Policy Statement
Rath NS, Baltimore is committed to providing a safe and healthy workplace for all our staff and a safe learning environment for all our pupils. To ensure that, we have developed the following COVID-19 Response Plan. The BOM and all school staff are responsible for the implementation of this plan and a combined effort will help contain the spread of the virus. We will:
- continue to monitor our COVID-19 response and amend this plan in consultation with our staff
- provide up to date information to our staff and pupils on the Public Health advice issued by the HSE and Gov.ie
- display information on the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and correct hand-washing techniques
- agree with staff, a worker representative who is easily identifiable to carry out the role outlined in this plan
- inform all staff and pupils of essential hygiene and respiratory etiquette and physical distancing requirements
- adapt the school to facilitate physical distancing as appropriate in line with the guidance and direction of the Department of Education
- keep a contact log to help with contact tracing
- ensure staff engage with the induction / familiarisation briefing provided by the Department of Education
- implement the agreed procedures to be followed in the event of someone showing symptoms of COVID-19 while at school
- provide instructions for staff and pupils to follow if they develop signs and symptoms of COVID-19 during school time
- implement cleaning in line with Department of Education advice
All school staff will be consulted on an ongoing basis and feedback is encouraged on any concerns, issues or suggestions.
This can be done through the Lead Worker Representative, Bébhinn Granaghan, who will be supported in line with the agreement between the Department and education partners.
Signed: David Sheehy Date: 14/08/20
Maura Collins Date: 14/08/20