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‘Enormous amount of work’ to prepare return to school

“THE message this week when schools return is that everybody has to play their part – staff pupils, parents everyone – in being proactive with giving things a try to make this work.”

This is the opinion of Holy Cross College principal, Clare Bradley as the school prepares to return its first cohort of pupils on Monday.

She also remarked that despite the muddled advice from the Department of Education, college staff have been working tirelessly to ensure the school is ready to accept pupils again, after months without, due to the coronavirus.

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“We were given 53 pages of guidance from the department in June and so the senior management team spent hours putting in place a detailed plan based on the advice given,” Ms Bradley explained.

“That, at the stroke of a pen, was disregarded last week.

“Basically everything in the guidance in June was to do with social distancing and that would have meant 50 per-cent of pupils coming in. We were planning for that. But in the latest guidance, social distancing is gone and so we are therefore back to planning for full school return with over 1,500 students.”

At the time of speaking, the local principal was still waiting on final guidance from the Education Minister, Peter Weir’s office.

“A lot of our plans are already in place,” she continued. “We have made plans such as having sanitiser available throughout the building. We are putting tape on the floors to show the direction to move in. There will be PPE for teachers – facemasks, visors, gloves and antibacterial spray.

“Teachers will also have protected areas. That will give the teacher complete control in terms of keeping it up to the standard of hygiene.”

Year 14 alone will be the first to return this Monday, followed by year 12 alone on Tuesday, with both year groups in the school for the rest of the week.

“We’re having a phased return,” Mrs Bradley confirmed. “All these details will be going out to parents. The plans will go on Facebook as well. We’re also trying to work with the unions in terms of their requirement for looking after staff and safety of staff and pupils is paramount.

“There will be different zones for year groups during break and lunch time and all zones will have access to an outside area. Then there will be staggered dismissal times at the end of the day and we’re asking everyone to download the app so that we can track and trace.

“It has been an enormous amount of work,” she said. “A normal school return is a big task but this year it’s huge and the uncertainty is also huge as to what is ahead of us.

“But I’m asking everyone to be proactive with giving things a try to make it work.”

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