It has been more than five months since pupils last stepped into Filemore National School, and there will be an adjustment period for all pupils according to principal Norah Golden.
She said while the focus on academic work is important, the health and well-being of pupils must be a key priority for all schools.
“We must remember the social well-being of the children. We have to get them mixing again. They have been out of school since March, so we have to see where they are at academically, but there are a lot of other things to work out,” she said.
The guidelines for the return to school were released by the Department of Education in late July, just weeks before the return to school, and like all schools it has been difficult to get everything ready in the time-frame required.
In the case of Filemore National School, which has 56 pupils and four teachers including an SNA, space is not an issue.
“We are a small school so we can follow the necessary guidelines,” Ms Golden said. Younger pupils do not have to social distance but must keep within their ‘class bubble’, while older classes must maintain 1m social distancing. However, Ms Golden said it must be remembered that though guidelines are in place for different age groups at school, older and younger siblings will be mixing in family units at home. She said the bus journey to school must be accounted for as well, and Filemore National School is organising ‘bubbles’ according to how children travel to school, hoping this will help limit interaction. One of Ms Golden’s main concerns is the care of students with ‘underlying’ conditions who want to return, but the school community will do its best to look after everyone.
She has also raised concerns about funding for schools, particularly for cleaning, which she believes is not enough for the additional cleaning now required.