Mountrath Community School

Letter to Parents Students and staff

19-September-20

19th September 2020
Dear All,
A big Well Done to all Parents, Students and Staff on the levels of care, attention and responsibility that is being shown regarding the Return to School. Thankfully students, staff and parents have settled down to the new “normal”. We are back for two full weeks already and the time is flying.

Covid Hygiene:
Students and staff were subdued at first but we have very quickly adjusted to the sanitising of the desks before and after classes, the Perspex everywhere, the one way system, the constant reminders of washing hands, mask hygiene, reminders to consider others at all times. We are delighted with the cooperation of our students, staff and parents. Inside the building we have 100% compliance with masks. Outside at break-time it is a bit more difficult. The rule of thumb is that if you are not eating that you should be wearing a mask. As we all know numbers are going up and we are trying to do our best to keep everyone safe – It is up to everyone to play their part. We are grateful to parents for reminding students of their obligations and the need to comply with mask wearing for everyone’s health and safety.

Corridors and Discipline:
In the corridors it can still be crowded despite the fact that all 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th year LCA and 6th Year LCA are classroom based. It is difficult to avoid but the HSE has reassured us that the time spent in corridors is minimal and as we are all masked there is no reason to be anxious. Everyone has quickly gotten used to the routine and discipline. Classes in normal classrooms may stay in their classrooms to eat break and lunch or can go outside. This has been working well although the complete emptying of the school in the first week took us by surprise and caused a supervision nightmare. We had definitely underestimated the need for our students to see daylight and be able to take the masks off for even a few minutes. None of us find wearing the masks easy but recognise the necessity.
Reentering the building is very orderly now and staggered so as to help movement. Discipline in the first week was lax too as students got used to again being restricted and limited in their movements and interactions with others. Luckily that has abated but not without a few students having to learn the hard way that the rules are there for the health and safety of all. The second week was a lot more settled as everyone got used to being at school again.

Teaching and Learning and Blended Learning
A lot of work is being done on Blended Learning. Every teacher had been trying to get students ready for the possibility that the school will be shut again at some point. We appreciate your help and cooperation with this. To help students to be able to submit work properly and to enable teachers to correct that work, teachers have been asking students to download apps like Adobe Scan, which are free to use and also compatible with any device. We realise that Broadband is an issue for some families. Mr Boland and Mr Coughlan have circulated a survey to students to ascertain how big the issue still is and we would ask you to encourage students to contribute to this survey so that we can get as comprehensive a picture as possible of the situation.

Covid Absence/ Self-Isolation
As we settle back to school, we wish to remind you that it will be absolutely normal to hear of students and staff being out due to possible Covid-19 or having to self-isolate. This has placed a burden on substitution and as we have hour long classes can be quite difficult. However, it is unavoidable. We all have a duty to follow all HSE advice, protocols and exercise caution, calm and consistent messaging. We have a duty of care to all in our building and to maintain confidentiality. Please let us know if there is anything we can help you with, as we always say, if we do not know we cannot help. We ask that all parents reinforce the importance of current public health messaging asking everyone to reduce their amount of contacts in a bid to keep everyone safe and schools open. We would urge you to keep your children at home if they have any symptoms.

Board of Management
Our current Board of Management is coming to the end of its three year term, we wish to thank all representatives of the Parents, Staff and Trustees for their commitment to serving the MCS community and the provision of quality education for our students. Pierre Hanneffy and Caroline Page (parents Reps for the last three years) have been invaluable in terms of their contribution to the Board and the school. There have been three nominees for the Parents’ Reps on the Board of Management. One of the nominated parents has withdrawn due to personal reasons. This leaves two nominees and therefore there is no necessity for a vote. Sinéad Nolan and Seamus Lahart have kindly agreed to be the Parents’ Reps on the Board. The first meeting of the Board will be Wednesday the 30th September 2020.

Parents’ Council
Our Parents’ Council AGM is being planned and possibly will need to move online. We aim to keep our parents up to date and by joining the Parents’ Council you can ensure you help develop policy, give feedback, get to know fellow parents from other years and indeed mentor each other over the years.

Bus Journeys
It has been brought to our attention that some students:

  • are not wearing a face mask on the bus
  • are not maintaining social distancing on the bus

In a very restricted area this could prove to be a costly mistake. It is unfair and putting fellow students and the driver at risk. We would urge parents to speak with their sons/daughters to try and ensure that they act at all times in the interests of Health and Safety.

We would ask that if your child is sick that you:

  • Keep her/him at home. Do NOT send her/him to school
  • Contact your GP if s/he has a Covid symptom
  • Follow all recommended guidelines published by the HSE. The most up to date information can be foundhere: https://www2.hse.ie/coronavirus/
  • Contact the school by ringing the office and update them accordingly
  • If your daughter/son must self-isolate at home and remains well, we would encourage her/him to keep up with her/his school work through Google Classroom.
  • If your daughter/son has trouble accessing Google Classroom from home, ask her/him to email her/his Yearhead directly to have the situation resolved.

We ask that all parents read back over and discuss all the Covid guidelines you have received with your daughter/son. S/he must follow school guidelines and show personal responsibility by ensuring her/his own physical distancing, correct wearing of face covering, hand hygiene & respiratory, using nearest exits and stairs at all times. Everyone has responsibility together, this has been and continues to be communicated.

The following is clarification from the Department on the wearing of masks:

Clarification on the use of face coverings in Post Primary schools

Wearing a face covering or mask does not negate the need to stay at home if symptomatic.

Wearing of face coverings – a requirement
Staff and students, at post-primary level, are required to wear a face covering. The exemptions to this are set out below.

Cloth face coverings
Cloth face coverings are recommended for staff and students. Cloth face coverings act as a barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from travelling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the face covering coughs, sneezes, talks or raises their voice. Cloth face coverings are therefore intended to prevent transmission of the virus from the wearer (who may not know that they are infected) to those with whom they come into close contact.

Face coverings must not contain any slogans/logos/images that may cause upset or be deemed offensive to any member of the school community.

Visors
Cloth face coverings are more effective than visors. In the limited circumstances where a cloth face covering cannot be worn clear visors must be considered. The alternate use of a clear visor can also be considered when a staff member is interacting with students with hearing difficulties or learning difficulties.

Exemptions

A medical certificate to certify that a person falls into a category listed below must be provided to the school by, or on behalf of, any person (staff or student) who claims that they are covered by the exemptions below:

  • any person with difficulty breathing who cannot wear a cloth face covering or a visor
  • any person who is unable to remove the cloth face-covering or visor without assistance
  • any person who has special needs and who may feel upset or very uncomfortable wearing the cloth face covering or visor, for example persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities, mental health conditions, sensory concerns or tactile sensitivity.

In circumstances where a medical certificate is not provided that person (staff or student) will be refused entry to the school.

Directions for effective use of face coverings

  • Information should be provided by schools on the proper use, removal, and washing of face coverings. Advice on how to use face coverings properly can be found here.
  • All staff and students should be reminded not to touch the face covering and to wash or sanitise their hands (using hand sanitiser) before putting on and after taking off the face covering.
  • All staff (and students, where applicable), should be aware that they should wash or sanitise hands (using a hand sanitiser) before and after helping a student put on or adjust a face covering.
  • Face coverings should be stored in a designated space, for example, in an individually labelled container or bag.
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed after every day of use and/or before being used again, or if visibly soiled.
  • Face coverings should not be worn if they are wet. A wet cloth face covering may make it difficult to breathe.


Whilst staff and students may wish to utilise their own face covering on a day-to-day basis, schools should have a stock of additional disposable or multi-use face coverings (or if appropriate, visors) for staff and students in case a back-up face covering is needed during the day or where required on an ongoing basis.
Use of medical grade face coverings
Schools should consider the specific circumstances where the use of medical face masks (to EU Standard EN 14683) may be more appropriate for staff as part of their risk assessment for employees returning to work (for example where staff by necessity need to be in close and continued proximity with students with intimate care needs such as SNAs).
Students using school transport
All students on the post primary transport scheme are required to wear face coverings subject to the exemptions above.

School Website
Mountrath Community School will be launching a new website in the next few weeks – more news later.
Thank you for all your support, we continue to strive for our best, provide quality teaching and learning for your son/daughter and ensure the safety of all our school community to the best of our ability, we ask you to do the same while recognising that we are always willing to learn, to improve and adapt. Wishing you and your son/daughter every success, please help him/her to do this by ensuring s/he gives her/his full commitment to her/his education, her/his homework and that s/he makes good healthy & positive choices in the decisions s/he makes.
Have a nice weekend.
Siobhán McCarthy Monica White Denis Boland All at MCS

Dysartbeigh, Mountrath, Co Laois, Ireland.
057 8741 080
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