Christmas break is crucial to address mitigation measures in schools – Matt Carthy TD
Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, has said that government must use the opportunity over the Christmas break to ensure children are returning to school buildings in January with all of the mitigation measures necessary to keep schools open and functioning well.
Speaking as schools began the Christmas holiday period, Deputy Carthy said:
“Reopening schools in January is vital.
“The government have a chance over the Christmas break to get this right, to make sure that children are returning to school buildings in January with all of the mitigation measures necessary to allow schools to reopen and stay open.
“We need to be throwing the kitchen sink at this, and this hasn’t been the approach from Government so far. This is far too important to get wrong.
“HEPA filtration has a key role to play in our schools, and while the Government have finally began to acknowledge this, they have been too slow and unhelpful in actual delivery.
“Putting HEPA in competition with other desperately needed projects within a school is wrong, particularly so when school budgets are already overstretched with additional heating costs, and kids are freezing in their classrooms with the windows open.
“The work involved applying for the minor works grant is enormous for school principals. In the last week and a half of term, the Department of Education has dropped one final Christmas present of significant additional administration on the desks of school leaders, who are already under incredible pressure.
“HEPA filtration would be much better centrally procured and then distributed by need.
“The fact is, that schools’ ability to function well has been undermined, because principals are being pulled from pillar to post – with substitution, with HEPA filtration, and with contact tracing.
“Contact tracing must be led by public health. Sinn Féin rightly argued for school-specific contact tracing teams. When these were secured, we could see that these were reasonably successful.
“Then in September out of nowhere, and even though we were dealing with new variants, these teams were taken away, in fact any and all contact tracing was taken away. We have paid the price for that.
“When schools ring the HSE, they can’t get them, they can’t get a call back. The new plan for antigen testing passed the buck for contact tracing entirely onto principals and parents.
“The school community feel as though they’ve been taken for fools, being asked to believe that transmission doesn’t occur in schools.
“The Government cannot continue on the basis that schools are immune, but instead acknowledge that covid can enter schools, acknowledge that schools are incredibly important, and do everything in their power over this Christmas break to mitigate this”.