Health and safety must be the priority for the re-opening of schools
The Standing Committee of the ASTI met today to assess the position regarding the reopening of schools in the context of the prevalence of Covid-19 nationwide.
The meeting heard of the unease of members regarding the health and safety of teachers, students and school communities.
The ASTI is deeply concerned that the Minister for Education may re-open schools without putting in place additional measures necessary to safeguard the health and safety of students and school staff. This would constitute an unacceptable risk in the context of the Omicron wave. There is uncertainty regarding the impact in schools of this significantly more transmissible variant.
The ASTI is calling for updated risk assessments to be presented prior to schools re-opening later this week.
“The priority must be that students and school staff can learn and work in an environment where there are appropriate safety measures in place to protect all concerned,” said ASTI President Eamon Dennehy.
The ASTI will be proposing a delayed and staggered reopening of schools at a meeting tomorrow with Department of Education and Public Health Officials. Face to face teaching with examination classes should be prioritised. Key concerns include:
- Safety of school communities.
- Staff shortages due to Covid.
- Inadequate ventilation and lack of HEPA filtration units.
- Provision of medical grade masks (e.g. FFP2).
- Risks to medically high-risk individuals.
We will be asking the Minister to consider making antigen tests available for all parents and their children to be used prior to going to school as a supplement to the existing testing and tracing regime in second-level schools.
The ASTI will also be calling for the speedy rollout of HEPA filtration units. It beggars belief that almost two years into this pandemic this basic facility is not in place where necessary.