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What is COVID-19?
The virus which causes COVID-19 is called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and belongs to the broad family of viruses known as coronaviruses. It was first identified in the Wuhan province in China in December 2019 and a global pandemic event was declared in March 2020.
In Ireland, COVID-19 was added to the Infectious Diseases Regulations in February 2020 and in March 2020 Medical Officers of Health were granted authority for the detention and isolation of persons in certain circumstances to help control the spread of COVID-19.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to symptoms of cold or flu. The most common symptoms are fever, cough, shortness of breath and loss of sense of smell or taste. More information regarding the most up to date signs and symptoms of COVID 19 are available on the HSE website.
Will students have access to lockers?
This situation will be ongoing. Initially you may not have access to your lockers but the situation will be reviewed at regular intervals and access may be given to some or all classes as the term progresses.
Where will students store books?
Each student will have a base classroom. Books can be left there but students are advised to be sensible about the number of books and copies brought to school
Will students have to wear a mask?
Yes. The advice is that for their own protection, students and staff should wear a mask.
Where will students enter and exit the building?
There will be a one-way system in place. Students should be encouraged to walk or cycle and will be fully guided on their 1st day on arrival at the school. Safety will be the guiding principle.
Students should not arrive before 8.45 am (unless coming by bus) and MUST leave the building by the appropriate exit once school ends.
Will there be a one-way system?
Yes. It will clearly be delineated by signage and you will be guided to rooms. Each class will have a base room with teachers moving around.
Will the students and teachers be sanitising their hands:?
Everyone entering the building will be required to perform hand hygiene with a hand sanitiser. This will be supervised.
Will there be influenza vaccination?
Influenza Immunisation will follow the vaccine programme for 2020as per National Immunisation Guidelines.
What will hand sanitisation look like?
Sanitisors will be placed around the school and outside each classroom and toilet.
When do we sanitise?
Pupils and staff should perform hand hygiene
- On arrival at school
- Before eating or drinking
- After using the toilet
- After playing outdoors
- When hands are physically dirty
- When you cough or sneeze
Pupils and staff should learn how to perform hand hygiene with an effective technique (for example the World Health Organisation technique)
Opportunities to perform hand hygiene will be provided and good technique encouraged
Will there be physical distancing?
Yes as per HSE guidelines for schools. Full information on same will be given at induction.
Students who have been abroad must have quarantined for two weeks.
Will water fountains be operative?
No. Please bring your own. See Guidance below
Will sharing be allowed?
If it is not yours please do not use it as sharing may pose risks.
Is there any advice for students?
Checklists for students and children
- In a situation like this it is normal to feel sad, worried, confused, scared or angry. Know that you are not alone and talk to someone you trust, like your parent or teacher so that you can help keep yourself and your school safe and healthy. Ask questions, educate yourself and get information from reliable sources.
- Protect yourself and others, wash your hands frequently, always with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and remember to not touch your face. Do not share cups, eating utensils, food or drinks with others. Practice physical and social distancing as much as possible.
- Be a leader in keeping yourself, your school, family and community healthy. Share what you learn about preventing disease with your family and friends, especially with younger children. Model good practices such as sneezing or coughing into your elbow and washing your hands, especially for younger family members.
- Don’t stigmatize your peers or tease anyone about being sick.
- Tell your parents, another family member, or a caregiver if you feel sick, and ask to stay home.
What to do if feeling ill in school?
Tell a staff member.
Illness/Dealing with a suspected case of Covid-19 in pupils
If a pupil displays symptoms of Covid-19 while in school, the following procedures will be implemented:
- Parents/guardians will be contacted immediately
- The child will be accompanied by a staff member to the isolation area on lower ground floor. The staff member will remain at least 2m away from the symptomatic child at all times.
- The child will be advised to cover their mouth and nose with the disposable tissue provided when coughing or sneezing and this will be · disposed of in the bin provided.
- If they are too unwell to go home or advice is required, the secretary will contact 999 or112 and inform them that the sick child is a Covid-19 suspect.
- Arrangements will be made for appropriate cleaning of the isolation area and work areas involved.
- The HSE will inform any staff/parents who have come into close contact with a diagnosed case via the contact tracing process. The HSE will contact all relevant persons where a diagnosis of Covid-19 is made. The instructions of the HSE should be followed and staff and pupil confidentiality is essential at all times.
NB: For children who are unwell but do not display Covid-19 symptoms the usual procedures will apply:
Parents will be contacted and children will remain in classroom until called to front office via intercom where they will be collected.
Illness/Dealing with a suspected case of Covid-19 in staff
- Staff members who are symptomatic should immediately inform the Principal/Deputy Principal and go to the isolation area.
- If a staff member is well enough to go home they may do so. Alternatively, arrangements will be made for them to be collected by a family member as soon as possible.
- If the staff member is too unwell to go home or advice is required, the secretary will contact 99 or112 and inform them that the sick person is a Covid-19 suspect.
- The isolation area and work areas will be cleaned thoroughly in line with the guidelines.
Will staff wear PPE?
Staff members are not required to wear PPE. However, PPE may need to be used occasionally. Appropriate PPE will be available for dealing with suspected Covid-19 cases, intimate care needs and for first aid. Where staff provide healthcare to children with medical needs in the school environment, they will apply standard precautions as per usual.
What extra rules will apply if any?
Addendum to rules & Regulations (Code of Conduct).
In view of the emergency nature of Covid 19 and the desire to keep everyone in Athlone Community College safe the following rule will apply until further notice.
Students are asked to comply with all back to school Covid 19 regulations and protocols and to follow all directions of the Principal, Lead Worker representatives, management, teachers and ancillary staff. In the event of any breach of same by any student, the student will be asked to isolate and his /her parents or guardians will be asked to bring him/her home.
The student will only return at the discretion of the Principal.
This is in view of the serious health and safety implications of any such breaches.
The return to school form must be signed before return to school or commencement in case of new students.
Will there be a change to toilet facilities?
Toilets will be clearly delineated. Students will obey all directions in relation to toilets.
What are return to school dates?
As per normal practice, each school sets return dates for the upcoming academic year. However due to level of preparation required due to the COVID-19 pandemic the dates for 2020/2021 have changed as outlined below to allow students an opportunity to fully familiarise themselves with the routines of the new school year:
Monday 31st August First Year students only
Tuesday 1st September 6th years and LCA 2 students only
Wednesday 2nd September 1st and 3rd year students only
Thursday 3rd September 1st, 2nd and 6th Year students only
Friday 4th September 1st, 3rd, 5th, LCA1 and 6th Year students only
Monday 7th September 3rd, 6th and LCA 2 students only
Tuesday 8th September 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th and LCA 2 student
Wednesday 9th September 1st, 2nd, 3rd 5th, 6th, LCA 1 and LCA 2 students
Thursday 10th September TY return (all students in situ)
Changes may occur in response to a changing situation.
What about uniforms and P.E?
We recognise that it is difficult for uniforms or tracksuits to be washed daily. We will follow our usual practice in relation to uniforms and tracksuits. Uniforms should be worn every day except on PE days. Teachers will ensure that PE days are spaced apart in the week so parents have a chance to alternate the two sets of clothes. We advise that school uniforms and tracksuits should be taken off straight after the child arrives home from school for the day.
Will there be homework?
While the nature of homework may change, homework will be given and corrected. Teachers will explain procedure.
What will happen at break and lunch?
A canteen service will be available but students are encouraged to bring their own lunch & carton. If doing so cleanliness is of the utmost importance so lunchboxes must be properly sanitised each night.
Can a parent/guardian visit the school?
- Should a matter of urgency arise for parents they must phone the school office and make an appointment for access. Please do not turn up expecting to gain access without an appointment. Parents should remain in their car until they receive a phone call from the school secretary.
- Should a parent wish to speak with the Principal/teacher they should call the school office and a suitable time will be arranged for a phone consultation. We will review this in October in the hope that face-to-face meetings can be accommodated if necessary.
- Visitors must call the office in advance of arranging a meeting with the Principal. All meetings with external agencies will take place via phone or online calls.
Please be assured that we will do our best to ensure your child returns to school in a safe manner.