Our main priority is to get everyone back - Holy Family Jnr school in Portlaoise says

Express Reporter

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Our main priority is to get everyone back - Holy Family Jnr school in Portlaoise says

Enda Hickey, Principal

The Holy Family Jnr school in Portlaoise has 650 pupils, a staff of 42 teachers and nine special needs assistants.

Principal Enda Hickey says the school is fortunate in having new buildings and facilities.

“It makes life much easier. We don't have the infrastructural challenges some schools have.

“We have things like individual toilets in the classrooms and push button taps. We are in a good state. We don't require the radical alterations.

“From a practical point of view it's to get things like the hand sanitizing stations in.

“And also restructuring movement around the building, restructuring our systems and timetables and interactions in classes and between classes.

“We have the first four years of primary. It is not a prerequisite to have social distancing for them. At that age, they are less well able to understand it.

“The objective is to keep everyone safe. We will follow the guidelines as closely as possible.

“Our biggest challenge is junior infants. We are not able to bring parents in anymore and we were very reliant on this in the past.

“We have been talking to parents about it. We have a plan in place.

“We will have staggered opening hours and hope that will be enough. Children respond to the routine of school and we hope that will help.

“We have a number of children, staff and parents in high risk categories and we will do what we can with these.

“We are coming from a good starting point. The school is easy to maintain.

“At the moment it is going through a deep clean.

“We have received our supply of PPE. We are making some timetable changes.

“Across the board, and with the Department and a common sense approach, we are starting small. We want to get the children climatised.

“The Department has provided scope on the curriculum and times etc. They have also provided extra resources and financial support in terms of PPE.

“None of us have been here before. Everyone involved is putting their shoulder to the wheel.

“Initially the first few days is very busy. We will follow policies and Department advice.

“We have two special classes, one ASD and a special junior speech and language unit, the only one of its kind in Laois.

“These present specific challenges, but the numbers are smaller and they are well supported.

“The main thing is that everyone wants to get back.”