By Michelle Crean

Two new classrooms are due to be opened for the new school term – but school principal of Scoil Phobail Sliabh Luachra in Rathmore this week told the Killarney Advertiser that social distancing will be one of the main challenges when students return.

Principal Denis Kerins explained that the full effect of changes won’t be fully understood until the 390 students and 30 staff return as they have never experienced anything on this scale before.

Hand sanitisers will greet the students at the entrance into the school building and will have to be used when changing classes. Students will also be kept to certain areas to minimise the movement within the building but subjects like PE and practical classes such as construction, metal work, Home Ec and some Science classes will need changes, he explained.

“The main aim will be to keep it [COVID] out of the building and the country,” Denis told the Killarney Advertiser.

“We’ll follow the recommendations but the first thing is to get the school open. Face masks aren’t really being recommended for schools but the one metre rule is recommended between desks. It’s a totally new thing we’re dealing with, we have no experience to go on. There could be a breakout at anytime but we have to learn to get on with it.”

He said some schools will have to stagger bringing in students for the first time but that it’s something the Rathmore school has been doing for years.

“We’ve always done that. In our particular case we’re due to open two new rooms so we’re in a good position and will have a bit more space than normal.”

However, he said some classes are quite big and as timetables are already completed some changes will have to be made.

“Practical subjects will involve a lot of hygiene as there’s a lot of utensils being used but we won’t know until we start.”

And as students will have been out of school for six months since the sudden lockdown in March he said that staff will be very mindful of the impact of COVID and will take steps to address any concerns students or parents may have.

“Some might have have anxiety, that will be identified and taken seriously.”

And he added that for students entering an exam year hopefully the Department of Education will make adjustments for the time lost.

“It’s going to be very uncertain year ahead, it’s new territory.”