St Mary's College, Naas, principal Mark Dowling
The 1,070 students at St Mary’s College, Naas, will return to a much changed school when it reopens this week.
A swathe of measures have been implemented to help nullify the threat imposed by the coronavirus and the preparatory work has been done by an in-house Covid-19 planning team made up of parents, teachers and students. The first years are first back, on Thursday.
Fifth year students Amy Corcoran, Eimear Freeley, Aisling Reilly and Lucy Flynn. Pictures: Aishling Conway
The omnipresent hand sanitation stations, visible throughout the community, have become part of the “furniture” of all schools, including St Mary’s College.
Lockers have been removed and placed in storage.
And while resources have been provided by the Department of Education and Skills, when the extra teaching provisions — costing €53m and equivalent to about one teacher nationally for every student at St. Mary’s — it equates to about 14 teaching hours or less than 1% at the school. “It’s not a lot when it is divided up between all of the schools but the Department has been very supportive as have the wider school community, including the schools in Naas and the representative organisations including the body representing voluntary catholic schools.
The work to transform St. Mary’s, which has some 70 teachers, was made a little more difficult because of the age of some of the buildings.
“We are on the list for a new build but that hasn’t happened yet.
“The work has taken place on a building basis and the school will; look a lot different to the premises we had when it closed on March 12,” said principal Mark Dowling.
There will be 30 students in each class at most and half a dozen satellite classrooms have been opened to ensure that all the students are catered for. The school has invested in technology to ensure that they have access to all classes.
Like other schools the attendance times have changed.
Students will have no morning break — but a longer lunch break which will allow many to go home, take some fresh air and change their books.
The school will open at 8am for some students to facilitate different arrival times and at the end of the school day departures from the building will be staggered.
A one way system has been developed to promote social distancing, not all of the students will go on lunch at the same time, movement will be kept to a minimum, and students will use the outside space to access different school locations.
“Parents and students will be anxious but we have a plan in place thanks to the work of vice principals, teachers, students and parents. We are really grateful for that,” said Mr Dowling.