By Michelle Crean

Works to the tune of €22,000 including colour coded areas for children, over 80 hand sanitiser units, a marquee for dropping off children and new electronic doors are all part of the changes at St Oliver’s National School.

Principal Rory Darcy this week said that with 714 pupils and between 28 and 30 pupils per class, there’s a lot of work going on in the background to ensure social distancing can be met as per the Department’s guidelines for when the school reopens next month.

They also have a pre-school with 103 children in attendance.

And although children from Third Class up are advised to socially distance one metre away from each other, he says it’s going to be their biggest challenge.

“With the one metre issue, it’s very difficult to work. You can’t stay one metre away. One metre apart is not going to be possible, that’s a worry and a concern. We will have to look at face visors and masks,” Rory told the Killarney Advertiser this week.

A big school, reworking the space to try and allow the recommended distance is underway.
“Every available space will be used. Our hall is now a classroom with partition walls going up. This hall was used seven days a week for the gym, speech and drama and choir, that’s all gone now.”

The expected return date is August 31 and when children return parents are advised to drop them off at the marquee at the courtyard where teachers and SNAs will greet them and bring the pupils in through their various colour coded areas.

“The school is divided up into six pods all colour coded. For instance Junior Infants will be colour coded red and Senior Infants blue. They will follow the coloured line into the school. We’ve installed four sets of double doors with fob key entry. Each class is like a family and that class then only have a teacher, SNA and support teacher where possible. There’ll be three different break times and they will only play with their own class.”

He added that they’ll be sending out a video explaining the new procedures before they return.

“The children might be nervous in the days before they return so we’ll send them a video message to welcome them back.”

The Killarney area has a panel of substitute teachers ready for any absences, he added.

Cleaning will also be a priority, including everyone pulling together to keep the school as sanitised as possible. Door handles have been changed costing €4,000. Contract cleaners will now come daily as opposed to every second day and doors to classrooms will be locked each evening.

Aside from the funds to get the school ready for reopening, €55,000 has been spent on new secutiy measures which were already planned for, he added.

“We don’t have all the answers, we’re doing the best we can. Everyone will need to be patient.”