Next Thursday August 27 is a big day for staff and pupils from Ballyduff NS as they re-open their doors for the first time since March.
In the words of principal Marrie Lucid, who has been busy for the past few weeks getting things ready, she does anticipate the coming school year to be a ‘challenge’ to say the least.
Marrie was speaking to The Kerryman this week about her school’s preparations over the last few weeks, saying that it has required a lot of work to be ready and to ensure the health and safety of staff and pupils alike.
One of the first and most crucial things that she said had to be taken into consideration was the issue of space and one of the biggest changes that the school had to face was to convert their PE hall into a makeshift classroom.
“We live in unprecedented times with a lot of new words and terminology out there with words like ‘bubbles’ and ‘pods’ and social distancing. We’ve just been trying to get our heads around all of it and make sure that we’re complying with all the guidelines that have been issued,” she said.
“The biggest challenge that we’ve had has been ensuring the social distancing and finding that formula that worked for the pupils safely and then allocating classes that meant the numbers remained small. That was a big thing,” she continued.
“We actually had to convert our PE hall into a classroom which involved quite a bit of work. Our classrooms would be quite small so this was a measure that we felt we had to take. The PE hallinvolved putting in a new whiteboard into the hall and obviously moving a big amount of furniture through the school,” said Marrie.
Another area that will need to be watched is lunch breaks and ensuring that only kids from the same pods/bubbles socialise together in the yard.
Marrie said that this means implementing staggered break times for pupils.
“In addition to the work inside the school with regards to classroom sizes, you have the whole area of the school yard to look at,” said Marrie.
As to how this will work, Marrie said that they will be working with the guidelines they have been given.
“When they are in class, the kids are in pods or their group and then when they go to the yard, all the pods in the bubble which was formally called a ‘class’, all the pods in the bubble are allowed to play together,” she said.
“For us, it means that of course, we’ll have the hand sanitisers at every door, and we will be staggering our break times and our lunch times. We have a large grass area that we are fortunate to have but obviously this won’t be usable all year round so we just decided to go with the plan of staggering break times and lunch from the very beginning,” she said.
As for whether she feels that enough has been done by the government to allow staff and pupils to return to work safely, Marrie said that a lot of the work and responsibility has fallen back on each school to try and find their own solutions.
“To be honest, a lot has been thrown back on the school. The guidelines issued were broad and finance has been put in place but really, at the end of the day, it’s down to the school principal, the staff and the board of management to actually come up with solutions that work for their schools,” she said.
“In terms of accomodation and in terms of health and safety and all that, we’ve had to work away on this,” she said.
Usually a school with an open-door policy for parents, Marrie said that this, obviously, been curtailed, with parents no longer to be allowed come into the building.
She said that the in spite of all the preparations the coming school is going to prove “a very big challenge” to ensure that they get things right and that it will no doubt be a case of trial and error with some areas.
“We had a staff meeting last week and we all sat around and we said ‘this is a provisional plan’. We just have to see how it works and maybe, we might have to go back to the drawing board and re-jig things around again as we go through the year,” she said.