Minister: It is an entire community effort to get open

The entire community must work together to get schools open in the coming weeks according to Minister for Education Norma Foley.

She said it remained the Government’s intention to re-open schools in the coming weeks despite increasing concerns over the rise in COVID-19 cases.

Speaking to The Kerryman this week, the Minister praised the efforts of school staff and has warned that, in light of upsurge in COVID cases, now is the time for everyone to work together for the health and well-being of the country and to ensure that children can return to school.

“We must be mindful that it is an entire community effort to keep COVID under control. It is hugely important that schools open and that we stay well and play our part in keeping COVID under control.

“We are renewing a call for everyone to be vigilant. We are trying to get schools open… We need community buy-in.”

Though there has been criticism of some of the measures provided by the Department of Education and, in particular, the funding provided to schools for such measures needed to meet COVID-19 guidelines, Minister Foley insisted that “schools are not being asked to meet the costs”.

Principals and teachers have criticised, in particular, funding for increased cleaning costs, which they believe do not go far enough.

“€160m has already been issued to schools and there is a fund of €375m. There is a very significant minor works grant available. Substantial money has been given [so] everything is covered.

“Schools are not being asked for money,” she said.

Aside from financial aid, she said that practical supports are also available to school staff including back-to-work induction training, which will be released online this week. Schools have been critical of delays to this training, which is coming just days before some schools return.

Minister Foley praised the commitment showed by school staff and school communities to re-open schools across the county and country.

“There is phenomenal work going on from the school community on the ground across the country. There has been magnificent generosity and willingness from schools.” – News