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Dunmore primary principal lambasts schools "hung out to dry" on Covid

A WATERFORD primary principal says teachers, principals, SNAs and other school staff feel they've been "hung out to dry" by Government in terms of protecting them against Covid-19.

Ciara McSweeney, principal of Realt Na Mara in Dunmore East, says the situation with primary schools is "really, really difficult" currently for both pupils and staff.

The Dunmore East school - which has 185 pupils between their junior campus in the village and senior campus at Killea - is fortunate to have no staff out sick at the moment, she said.

But it's been "manic" in terms of trying to adhere to all the guidelines regarding Covid and especially now that there isn't the same HSE support in cases of outbreaks.

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It means schools, she said, were completely dependent on parents keeping children home if they may have the virus.

"I'm depending on the goodwill of parents," she told Damien Tiernan on Deise Today this morning (Thursday).

"Up to last year, if we had a case of Covid, the HSE would engage with me. I'd ring the parent to say their child is a close contact and the HSE will be in touch."

"Now, there is absolutely no back up."

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She said there are situations where children with Covid are in school currently because they are asymptomatic.

Teachers, SNAs are in classroomsย  which are not designed with proper ventilation in mind. These staff, she said, are working in close proximity to unmasked and unvaccinated children. They had been "hung out to dry" and should really be on a priority list for boosters.

She said the current situation was difficult for everyone, including parents who were having to try and work from home where children were having to stay home.

The children themselves also had "pandemic fatigue" and it was getting harder and harder, she remarked, to keep them in their pods when they want to mix and play with other friends.

There was a huge amount of Covid testing going on even within her school, with about "every tenth child" ending up with a positive result.

If contract tracing was to return, Ciara McSweeney said it would be probably unrealistic to keep schools open as there are so many cases at the moment that the close contacts rates would be exponential.

She was also critical of the lack of communication from the Dept of Education regarding antigen testing.

"We haven't heard one word from the department officially to say this is happening next Monday."

Realt Na Mara is the new amalgamed primary school in Dunmore East following the joining together this year of the former Light of Christ Girls school and the Killea Boys National School.

Ciara was previously the principal of The Light of Christ Girls School.

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