Opening our School 2020
Important Communications regards:
Opening our School is available for you to read now.
Communication to Parents/Guardians - August 2020
Dear Parents and Guardians
We hope you and your child/children are safe and well and that you are all looking forward to the start of the new school year at the end of August.
Undoubtedly, the end of the last academic year proved to be very challenging for everyone. We are also very mindful of our new incoming First Year students and that their final days of primary school were not what they expected nor wanted.
It is, indeed, hard to believe that schools have been closed since 13 March 2020.
We are extremely grateful to our students, you as parents and our staff in making great efforts to engage so positively during school closure.
Roadmap for the Full Return to School
The Minister for Education published the Roadmap for the Full Return to School on 28 July 2020. The Roadmap sets out what the operation of schools will look like and the range of supports which will be available in a COVID-19 context.
It was being developed in line with public health advice issued by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) and in compliance with the Return to Work Safely Protocol developed by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and the Department of Health with guidance documents provided by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA).
Each workplace is required to have a COVID-19 Response Plan. In addition to being places of learning, schools are also places of work. All schools are required to implement a School COVID-19 Response Plan, including a:
COVID-19 Policy Statement
Lead Worker Representative (LWR)
Procedure in dealing with a suspected case of COVID-19
Our school Covid-19 Response Plan is near completion and will be available on our school website shortly. We have been working very closely with our patron, Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board with regular meetings online throughout the summer to prepare for this coming academic year.
Key Messages for all Stakeholders (students, staff and Parents / Guardians)
Everyone needs to play his/her part to minimise the risk of COVID-19 for staff, students, families and the wider community while recognising the importance of education for the health and wellbeing of students and society as a whole.
Everyone must make every effort to minimise the risk of infection.
In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 it is important to know and recognise the symptoms.
shortness of breath or breathing difficulties
loss of smell, of taste or distortion of taste
If your child/children complains of any of these symptoms, please keep your child/children at home and call your GP without delay.
Good respiratory hygiene is essential in managing this pandemic. This means covering one’s mouth and nose with a tissue or your bent elbow when you cough or sneeze. Everyone should use tissue immediately and dispose of used tissue safely into a nearby bin.
By following good respiratory hygiene, we protect the people around us from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
Staff and students will be briefed on why hand hygiene is important as well as when and how to wash their hands.
We will promote good hygiene and display posters throughout the school on how to wash hands. Everyone should follow the HSE guidelines on handwashing.
Hand sanitiser dispensers will be deployed more at exit and entry points of the school and classrooms.
Wash hand basins, running water, liquid soap and hand drying facilities are provided in all toilets and kitchens.
Frequency of Hand Hygiene
Students and staff should perform hand hygiene:
on arrival at school
before eating or drinking
after using the toilet
after petting animals
after playing outdoors
when their hands are physically dirty
when they cough or sneeze
We have arranged all of the necessary PPE supplies for use in our school from the day it opens for students.
Physical distancing will be applied in so far as is possible and in a practical way to facilitate the learning environment. We will make all efforts to achieve this by increasing separation by utilising and reconfiguring all available space in the school. Other measures that have been taken include efforts to maximise physical distancing, reviewing timetables, reconfiguring classes, accessing available spaces within the local community and decreasing interaction.
Coming to and from school
Parents/guardians are required to observe and respect all social distancing protocols in relation to any contact with the school. This includes maintaining a two metre distance to other families when dropping off or collecting their children from the school and any contact with the school. All visits to the school are required to be made in advance through the school office. Phone: 068 30631
When students arrive at school, they should proceed directly to their base classroom which will be assigned to them once they return to school. Students should not congregate in groups close to one another. Assigned entrances and exits will be given to all year groups when they return.
Face Coverings for Students
We are requesting that all students have their own supply of plain coloured face masks, which can be disposable or washable. Face masks are widely available and advice about the types of facemasks we recommend can be found via the HSE link below and on our website. We request that students refrain from wearing face masks that depict any imagery on them so as not to cause offence to others. Face masks will not need to be worn when students are exercising, eating or drinking or in the yard. Additional information regarding face coverings is availabe from the HSE website - https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/face-masks-disposable-gloves.html
The following advice has been issued by Bus Éireann:
A student is not to use school transport if they are displaying symptoms
Students are to maintain physical distancing while waiting for transport
Students are asked to sit in pre-assigned seating and next to a sibling or child from their class group (this should be the same child at all times)
Students are requested to use hand sanitiser on boarding the bus
Students should observe respiratory etiquette at all times while waiting for and on-board transport services
To disembark the bus one by one in an orderly fashion
With the exception of those children who for medical or special educational needs reasons are not in a position to wear a face mask or face covering, all other students travelling on the post-primary scheme are required to wear face coverings while waiting for and on-board transport services.
Students who have been on holidays outside of Ireland
Given the current domestic and international situation, the Government has advised against travelling abroad. However, we are aware that some students may have been abroad before school resumes.
All passengers who arrive into Ireland are required to restrict their movements to limit the potential of importing COVID-19 and infecting their families, communities and workplaces.
Contacting/visiting the school
Access to the school by parents and guardians will be far more restricted than ever before while we live through the current pandemic. The advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) makes it clear that schools must restrict access to the campus outside of students and staff. Only in very exceptional circumstances should students be collected from school during the day. Appointments for students should be made outside of the school timetable if possible. If you wish to call the school, please contact the school office for an appointment.
Changes to the Code of Behaviour Policy during Covid-19
In light of the need for students to be more mindful of attending school during the current Covid-19 climate, an amendment to the Code of Behaviour Policy is required so that students will be aware of specific rules on their return to school. Our guiding principle when making any changes or adjustments to this policy is to be able to keep all of our students, families and staff safe. The amendments will be communicated to students, parents and staff shortly.
How to prepare for the return to school - how can parents/guardians help?
As students have missed several months of life at school, it is totally understandable that it will take some time to adjust to returning to school-life in the new reality we find ourselves.
You, as parents/guardians can help with this adjustment by starting to encourage your child/children to change their routines and habits between now and start of the school year. Going to bed a little earlier, preparing uniform, schoolbag, school books etc. are all helpful in preparing students for the return to school-life. There is an excellent range of supports available on www.loveparenting.ie specifically for parents to help with this. These resources have been created specifically for parents to use with their children and cover these areas;
Having the chats
Managing your child’s anxiety
New First Year Students
Step Up To Secondary School is a fantastic resource developed by Planet Youth and their partners. It has a number of resource pages for parents and students. Each resource page has a number of topics to browse through. Some topics have additional information such as advice, videos or extra research. You can access this site here - www.stepup.ie
Supporting the wellbeing of students
There will be a significant emphasis on promoting the wellbeing of our school community as part of the Department of Education’s overall plan to ensure a successful return to school as we all continue to manage the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both the Department of Education and we as a school, appreciate that we are living through exceptional times which impacts on the wellbeing of everyone in different ways, at different times. People have been naturally worried about the risk to their physical health and that of their loved ones and have been challenged to varying degrees by the public health measures that were put in place in Ireland to control the spread of the virus, such as staying at home and school closures.
Vaping and Smoking are prohibited by school rules. Furthermore, both activities produce second hand smoke and vaping is also an aerosol. As we know Covid-19 virus is transmitted by droplets. In this context any breach of this school rule will have to be attended to immediately, fairly and with due process in proportion to the seriousness of the issue. Here in school and I trust, also at home this message will be made clear to all students so they understand the gravity of this. Vaping/smoking is as we know a potentially devastating habit in normal times, these products are marketed at young people but working together and through education we can make it plain to everyone who might be tempted by this habit that now not only does it have a personal consequence but it also has a wider consequence. Thank you in advance for your support with regard to this serious issue.
Return to school dates
The following are our return to school dates
Monday 31st August: 1st Years 9:00 – 12:30
Tuesday 1st September: 1st years, 6th years, 3rd years
Wednesday 2nd September: 1st years, 6th years, 3rd years, 2nd years
Thursday 3rd September: 2nd years, 5th years, Transition years
Friday 4th September: 5th years, Transition years
Monday 7th September - All Students.
We feel it is essential to get all years back to school in the first week. We also have to balance safety for all with students and teachers getting accustomed to the reality of the new normal. This is why we need to give space, time and attention to individual years in the first week. We will need to go through the new routines, explain clearly the new parameters that we must be guided by. The following changes are in place to make the school ready as per government guidelines.
Classes will be based in classrooms and year zones. Teachers will move from class to class.
Students will not use lockers they can keep the materials they need in their bags for the particular day.
There will be a separate entrance for each year group. Hand sanitiser stations will be at each entrance. Each room will have hand sanitisation outside the room and inside the room.
A one-way system will be in operation in the school.
Work is ongoing with a canteen provider to be able to provide a canteen service that complies fully with all government protocols.
Isolation rooms are per government guidelines and in place both upstairs and downstairs.
Downtown – for the month of September the senior students will not be going down town as usual. We realise that is a big change for many and may be a source of disappointment. We do not want to take this privilege away permanently without consultation so we will survey parents and students on the third week of September. We will also seek the views of the wider school community. It would clearly not be viable to send half of the school downtown at the same time. We will however have staggered lunch breaks so it will be possible to have one senior year downtown at the time. For now, all students will stay in at lunchtime and we will review this at the end of September and make a decision for the month of October based on what the advice at the time is nationally as well as being informed by the views of all involved.
We have requested a full list of arrival times for our school buses. We will have supervision on in the morning and throughout the day and students will be directed to go to their base class in their year zone. The students when they arrive will remain in their base class until it is time for first class. When students arrive they will be asked to enter the school through the designated entrance for their year. Once in school the students arrive for school in the morning there will be no walking out of the school in the morning to go to the shop in the town.
A small number of students are in early because one bus is very early, these students should go to their base classrooms. We will continue to monitor closely arrival in the morning and if we need to refine the time further we will do so. With the plan in place students should be able to quickly enter the school and go to their designated area. We will be focusing on this aspect of the school day in the first week.
Assembly unfortunately not be able to take place in the school year 2020/2021. Roll will be taken first class in the morning and a text message will be sent to parents of students who are absent at circa 9:30 each morning.
Our full morning assemblies over the years have been really beneficial. Our yearheads who are meeting on Tuesday 25th to finalise proposals for their year groups, will speak to individual classes on a regular basis and maintain their guidance and pastoral roles in this way.
Break time will be at the end of second class for 10 minutes. Students will remain in their classes and zones. Students will be wearing masks in class. We realise that this will take some time for students to get used to and we will at times during the day be able to bring students in class groups outside to get some fresh air as they become used to wearing the masks. This is new for us all but it will be carried out to the highest standards while also taking into account the major change this will be for all.
There will be three lunch times with two year groups on lunch at the same time. This is being organised to maintain social distance to the optimum level at lunchtime. Classes continue for the four year groups who are not on lunch at that time.
Student lockers will not be in use as their use is not compatible with social distancing. Students will be able to keep what they need for the day in their base class and there will be limited movement if they have to move from their base class it will be to another classroom on their corridor zone.
On some occasions students will leave their base room and zone and will need to go to practical rooms for their subjects. This movement will be organised and synchronised with what is happening in the school at the particular time.
Students will be able to retrieve items they left in their lockers on March 12th during the first days of their return to school.
As we know the situation guidance and advice evolves as the pandemic evolves and schools evolve and adapt and implement the guidance as it is issued we will continue to do so meticulously.
The importance of hand hygiene, cough etiquette etc. will be consistently spoken about. Another key area is how to put on and take off your mask correctly and the importance of not continually touching
or adjusting the mask while you wear it. We will show instructional videos in class as this is as we know very important.
Thank you for taking the time to go through this document. The support of parents and students for their school is in my opinion second to none. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all of the staff here in the school, teachers, administrators, SNA’s and the entire Sodexo team and canteen operators for their availability throughout the summer by phone, email and in person. The support for every aspect of getting the school open has been unconditional and such determination and support from all is very energising as we face together a collective challenge that is bigger than all of us individually but together is something we will take on to provide the school, education, routine and sense of wellbeing that our students and ourselves need at this particular time.
We await further guidance on how PE will be organised for now it is envisaged that students will wear their PE clothes all day on the day they have PE. We do not have an official PE school uniform, normal PE clothes will entail a PE tracksuit bottom and polo shirt/T-Shirt. If this situation continues long-term we can survey parents and students to see if they would like the introduction of a School PE uniform. Additional costs naturally weigh heavy on the minds of all parents but in the long run this may work out as a more economical measure.
There is a comprehensive range of documentation available at gov.ie/backtoschool if parents would like to view the relevant information in supporting parents and students with the opening of schools for the new academic year. Our school website (abbeyfealecollege.ie) will be updated regularly to keep parents/guardians, students and staff briefed on returning to school. We may also send text messages and emails to share information and updates with you promptly and regularly.
Thank you for your continued support of our school and we look forward to being in contact with you soon again.