This is a living document and may be reviewed and amended to take into account new guidance from www.Gov.ie, www.dbei.ie , www.hse.ie, www.hpsc.ie, www.hsa.ie; www.education.ie or agreements with education partners as appropriate for primary and special schools.
The following document draws from the ‘Roadmap for the full return to School’ published in July and the Department of Education’s ‘Response Plan’. The department's plan is reviewed and updated. Similarly this document will be subject to review and change where necessary.
The purpose of this document is to provide clear, concise and helpful guidance for the safe operation of RMDS through the prevention, early detection and control of COVID-19.
The full document provided by the department of Education is available here: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/7a8d5-planning-and-preparing-for-return-to-school-covid-19-response-plan-for-safe-re-opening-of-primary-schools/
Teachers and all staff working in the school including substitutes will familiarise themselves with this document and the logistical plan to ensure its successful implementation.
All staff will participate in induction training.
The purpose of this training is to ensure that the staff have an understanding of the following:
Before returning to work all staff will sign a return to work form at least three days prior to work commencing.
A LWR will be appointed among the staff. The role of the LWR is to:
Aoileann Farley is the LWR
Christina Dowling is the deputy LWR
The Department will provide printed posters to schools, with age appropriate key health
messages – hand washing, sneeze and cough etiquette etc. These will be displayed prominently within the school. The school has also purchased additional signage to help remind children and adults about social distancing within the school.
Changes have been made to the school layout to ensure that class bubbles have limited to no contact with other class bubbles in the school.
This includes the use of separate entrances to the school.
Having clear paths for exiting the school for yard duty or home time.
Reducing the number of children in the yard at any one time.
Changing the way that resource teachers interact with their partner classes.
The DES guidelines recognise that a common-sense approach is needed in our Primary schools. To that end, every effort will be made to limit interaction within classrooms, to limit contact between class groups and to limit the sharing of common facilities.
The children and their teachers will work in Class Bubbles. A Class Bubble is a grouping which stays apart from other classes as much as possible. The aim of the system within the school is that class groupings mix only with their own class from arrival at school in the morning until the children go home at the end of the school day.
Staff members (particularly Learning Support Teachers and SNAs) can rotate between areas/classes but this will be minimised where possible. When rotation occurs, agreed sanitising routines will be observed.
We trialed a rotation of the SET teacher on a daily basis. This was impacting children so we now sanitise rooms when children from different classes use the room
In the infant bubbles the SET teacher will prepare materials and a plan for the SNA once the children go home. The SNA will follow this plan on the day the SET teacher will not be in the classroom.
The school has reviewed our emergency procedures involving fire safety, first aid, accidents and dangerous occurrences to consider any new risks that arise due to the school’s COVID-19 Response Plan.
The prompt identification and isolation of potentially infectious individuals is a crucial
step in restricting the spread of the virus and protecting the health and safety of the
individuals themselves and other staff, contractors and visitors at the workplace. A
detailed sign in/sign out log of those entering the school facilities will be maintained.
The school secretaries will maintain a log of staff and pupil contacts.
As part of the school’s health and safety policy the importance of respiratory hygiene will be emphasised in all classrooms. This means covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your bent elbow when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately and safely into a nearby covered bin.
By following good respiratory hygiene, we can protect the people around us from viruses such as cold, flu and Covid-19.
Staff and pupils should understand why hand hygiene is important as well as when and how to wash their hands. We as a school will follow the HSE guidelines on handwashing:
Before the children enter the school building they will sanitise their hands. Before eating the children will wash their hands in warm soapy water. Additional facilities have been provided to make this easier and more efficient.
If the class has left the room and are re entering their bubble they will sanitise their hands before entering. Sanitising stations are available at multiple points throughout the school.
Use of hand hygiene facilities including wash hand basins will be managed so as to avoid congregation of people waiting to use wash hand basins and hand sanitisers.
*There is a requirement for access to hand washing facilities after activities that are likely to soil hands, for example playing outside or certain sporting activities as hand sanitiser does not work on dirty hands.
Posters displaying hand washing techniques and promoting hand washing are visible where hand washing will take place.
Evidence of effectiveness is best for alcohol based hand rubs but to reduce the negative impact of alcohol based sanitisers non-alcohol based hand rubs are in use also.
*Young children should not have independent use of containers of alcohol gel.
Pupils and staff should perform hand hygiene:
Physical distancing is a useful tool in controlling the spread of the virus however it must be applied in a practical way to recognise that the learning environment cannot be dominated by a potentially counterproductive focus on this issue. It is also recognised that it is not always possible for staff to maintain physical distance from pupils and it is not appropriate that they would always be expected to do so where this could have a detrimental impact on the pupil i.e. if a child sustains an injury and requires first aid.
However, where possible staff should maintain a minimum of 1m distance and where possible 2m. They should also take measures to avoid close contact at face to face level such as remaining standing rather than sitting beside/crouching down.
Physical distancing falls into two categories:
Within each class bubble, children will be broken up into pods of a maximum of 6 children where possible. While in the classroom children will stay within their pod and will be kept at a minimum distance of 1m from other pods where possible. There is an acknowledgement that maintaining pods may not be possible with the younger classes (infants - second)
Movement of adults in the school between bubbles will be kept to an absolute minimum.
During yard breaks children are allowed to move outside their pod but classes will not mix. To facilitate this there will only be two classes on yard at any one time for the first break. For the second break we will be using Mount Pleasant, and our downstairs yard.,We will have staggered breaks for infants to allow for this separation.
Classes have been cleared of removable furniture where possible/necessary to improve our ability to socially distance the pods.
At home time the children will be brought outside the school in their pods and will wait to be collected unless a parent/guardian is already there in which case they will go directly to their parent/guardian. Parents have been advised to collect and go.
The general aim at collection time will be to reduce the congregation of parents and children. This will be monitored closely and changes including staggered arrival and drop off will be made if necessary.
Staff will maintain a 2m distance from each other in the class context, use of class corridors, resource rooms and outside spaces will be utilised to assist with this distancing.
While passing in corridors is very unlikely to contribute significantly to the spread of infection. Even so movement in the corridors will be reduced to essential journeys only, informal group discussions will be avoided.
All staff wear face masks when in school and medical grade masks are available to all staff. Visors are available but following advice we have reduced our use of them.
For a limited number of staff additional PPE will need to be used occasionally or constantly due to the nature of certain work activities or work areas. This might include roles such as:
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 should apply standard precautions as per usual practice.
Cloth face coverings are not recommended for children under the age of 13, however we won’t discourage children from wearing them.
For staff, face coverings are worn if physical distancing is not possible and practiced appropriately.
Wearing a face covering will conceal facial expression and make communication difficult, in certain and limited circumstances it may be necessary to remove the mask so teachers may communicate more effectively with the class but not when within 2m of any other person and only when absolutely necessary. It is acknowledged that being heard while wearing a mask is difficult and if necessary amplification devices are available.
The use of disposable gloves in the school by pupils or staff is not generally appropriate but may be necessary for intimate care settings. Routine use does not protect the wearer and may expose others to risk from contaminated gloves.
Routine use of disposable gloves is not a substitute for hand hygiene.
RMDS have decided to suspend all extra curricular activities until the mid term break, at which point, it will be reviewed. Suspension will continue until after Easter and will be reviewed again
All toys should be cleaned weekly. This will remove dust and dirt that can harbour germs.
Toys that are visibly dirty or contaminated with blood or bodily fluids should be taken out of use immediately for cleaning or disposal.
Initially, we have removed all cloth or soft toys. Their use will be reviewed and if they are reintroduced the ones used will be machine washable.
Jigsaws, puzzles and toys that young pupils may be inclined to put into their mouths are washed or disinfected.
Dress clothes for the Junior Classes are washed weekly.
All play equipment will be checked for signs of damage for example breaks or cracks. If they cannot be repaired or cleaned they will be discarded.
Clean toys and equipment should be stored in a clean container or clean cupboard. The manufacturer’s instructions should always be followed.
At this time soft modelling materials and play dough where used is for individual use only.
Where possible pupils should be encouraged to have their own individual art and equipment supplies. For classroom supplies each pod has their own equipment.
Shared electronic devices such as tablets, touch screens, keyboards will be cleaned between use.
Instruments will not be shared between pupils
Where practical pupils should have their own books. We will continue to have a class library and books returned will go into a quarantine space before being put back into the class library.
Teachers as much as possible will avoid using the same resources used by another class within a 72 hour period.
An enhanced cleaning schedule has been agreed with our cleaning company ISS and this includes a change in hours to ensure that the school high contact areas will be cleaned and sanitised after all the adults and children have left the school building.
In addition to this staff within the school will undertake regular cleaning of high touch areas during the day.
The room should be cleaned as soon as practically possible.
Once the area is vacated it should not be reused until it has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected and all surfaces are dry.
The Person assigned to cleaning should avoid touching their face while they are cleaning and should wear household gloves and a plastic apron.
Clean the environment and furniture using disposable cleaning cloths and a household detergent followed by disinfection with a chlorine based product (household bleach).
Special attention will be given to frequently touched surfaces, the back of chairs, couches, door handles and any surfaces that are visibly soiled with body fluids.
Once the room has been cleaned and disinfected and all surfaces are dry, the room can be reused.
If a pupil or staff diagnosed with COVID-19 spent time in a communal area like a canteen, play area or if they used the toilet or bathroom facilities, then the areas should be cleaned with household detergent followed by a disinfectant as soon as is practically possible.
Staff or pupils should not attend school if displaying any symptoms of COVID-19. The following outlines how a school should deal with a suspected case that may arise in a school setting.
Designated isolation areas have been established in the gp room.
If a staff member/pupil displays symptoms of COVID-19 while at school the following are the procedures to be implemented:
If the person with the suspected case is a pupil, the parents/guardians should be contacted immediately;
A child will be removed from the classroom and wait on the outside corridor in isolation. If an additional adult is in the room they will bring the child to the isolation area keeping at least 2m away from the symptomatic person and also making sure that others maintain a distance of at least 2m from the symptomatic person at all times. The use of rails handles etc will be avoided.
The class teacher will inform the principal and office using agreed methods
Remember that the virus is spread by droplets, so physical separation is enough to reduce the risk of spread to others even if they are in the same room;
If it is not possible to maintain a distance of 2m a staff member caring for a pupil should wear a face covering or mask. Gloves should not be used as the virus does not pass through skin;
Provide a mask for the person presenting with symptoms if one is available. He/she should wear the mask if in a common area with other people or while exiting the premises;
Parents/Guardians will be contacted and asked to collect the child immediately. They will then call their doctor and continue self- isolation at home;
Public transport of any kind should not be used.
If they are too unwell to go home, cannot be collected, or advice is required, we will contact emergency services informing them that the sick person is a Covid-19 suspect.
The school will then carry out an assessment of the incident which will determine follow-up actions and recovery, i.e. which areas need to be cleaned and sanitised.
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.
Additional considerations will be made for those with Special Educational Needs
For children with special educational needs (SEN) maintaining physical distancing in many instances will not be practical or appropriate to implement. The focus should therefore be on emphasising that parents/guardians should have a heightened awareness of signs, symptoms or changes in baseline which suggests illness/COVID-19 infection and where symptoms are present children should not attend school.
Children who are unable to wash their hands by themselves should be assisted to clean their hands using soap and water or a hand sanitiser (if their hands are visibly clean) as outlined previously.
Some children may have care needs (physical or behavioural) which requires the use of aids and appliances and/or medical equipment for example toileting aids, moving and handling equipment, respiratory equipment. Where cleaning of aids and appliances is carried out in the school it is recommended that a cleaning schedule is provided, detailing when and how the equipment is cleaned and the cleaning products to be used in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions.
The following points can guide the development of such cleaning schedule:
➢ First clean thoroughly with detergent and water;
➢ Then disinfect by wiping with a freshly prepared solution of disinfectant;
➢ Rinse with water and dry.
Staff have a statutory obligation to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and that of their colleagues and other parties. The cooperation and assistance of all staff is essential to reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19 and to protect health and safety as far as possible within the school. All staff have a key role to play. In this regard and in order to facilitate a safe return to work, these duties include, but are not limited to, the following:
The management of a COVID-19 related absence will be managed in line with agreed procedures with the Department of Education.
The Department recognises the need for school staff wellbeing and collective self- care. Support for school staff wellbeing will be provided by Department Support Services including the PDST and CSL, as well as by the HSE’s Health Promotion Team. An Occupational Health Strategy is in place as a supportive resource for staff in schools. The aim of the Occupational Health Strategy is to promote the health and wellbeing of employees in the workplace, with a strong focus on prevention. The Occupational Health Strategy comprises the Employee Assistance Service and the Occupational Health Service. The Employee Assistance Service (EAS) is provided by Spectrum.
Life under the logo of ‘Wellbeing Together: Folláinne Le Chéile’. Under the EAS, employees have a dedicated free-phone confidential helpline 1800 411 057 available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year providing advice on a range of issues such as wellbeing, legal, financial, mediation, management support etc. Where required, short- term counselling is available to employees and their families (over the age of 18 years and living at home). A bespoke wellbeing portal and app which offers access to podcasts and blogs on topics around wellbeing and mental health, family life, exercise and nutrition is also available. In addition online cognitive behavioural therapy is provided.
As part of the services provided by Spectrum. A Mental Health Promotion Manager is available to develop and deliver evidence based mental health and wellbeing initiatives to reduce stigma and improve mental health literacy and to increase engagement with the service. They will also be providing a series of webinars and presentations to promote staff wellbeing in schools as schools reopen and during the upcoming school year.