The ASTI Standing Committee met this evening following today’s meeting of education stakeholders (including teacher unions), the Minister for Education and representatives from her Department, and public health officials.
ASTI Standing Committee expressed dismay at the lack of progress on school safety in the context of rising cases of the Omicron variant. Teachers and students spend their days in overcrowded classrooms, many of which are poorly ventilated.
While the Government has acknowledged the staffing crisis facing schools as they re-open this week, there is little by way of additional support for safety and to assist schools in remaining open.
Schools will have flexibility to prioritise in-person teaching for certain student groups, where staff absences due to Covid impact on the operation of schools. The ASTI expects intense disruption for schools and immense pressure on school staff and school principals in particular.
In response to ASTI representations, the Government has also agreed to consider the need for higher grade masks in schools. The ASTI’s view is that medical grade masks are essential in second-level schools and must be provided urgently.
Despite repeated calls from the ASTI, many classrooms are still in dire need of HEPA filtration units in order to assist with ventilation.
Key ASTI concerns remain, including:
- Schools are re-opening without provision of medical grade masks.
- Many classrooms are in need of HEPA filtration units.
- Risks to medically high-risk individuals’ safety remain.
“These measures were necessary last year when we first called for them. We should not be in this situation now.” said ASTI President Eamon Dennehy.
The ASTI is insisting on regular and frequent engagement between the Department and the education stakeholders. The ASTI will continue to monitor and report on the situation on the ground in schools all over the country.