Minister for Education Norma Foley has admitted that the return of schools this week has not been “without challenges” as principals struggle to cope with record staff absences and poor ventilation.
“These days in education are not without challenge,” Minister Foley told The Anton Savage Show.
“And in fact I would say that’s not unique to this present situation - that has been the way throughout the pandemic.”
Numerous teachers contacted Newstalk to say that pupils were struggling to learn in classrooms while the windows were kept open because of poor ventilation - a problem Minister Foley says the Department of Education is dealing with:
“I do absolutely accept that there are particular challenges, but equally so we are saying, for example, that in terms of the operation of opening of windows, there is very clear guidance to open them before class and after class and to open them to a lesser degree than you would when the room is empty.
“Equally so, in terms of heating; schools are well resourced in terms of putting heating on at its maximum.
"If there are any issues with individual schools in terms of financing around heat, obviously contact can be made directly with the Department and we will resource even further.
"But that money is available there.”
However, she acknowledged that, “It is difficult. It’s not easy.”
The Department of Education has also helped facilitate the installation of 38,000 CO2 monitors in schools and formed a technical team to help schools overcome problems.
“Specifically in terms of ventilation we have a technical team that is available to schools,” Minister Foley said.
“We’ve also encouraged schools to, for example, if there are very specific and demanding issues to engage locally with their own engineer or architect who might have a particular familiarity with their school… So every step of the way the Department is taking a positive and proactive engagement with schools. That has always been the approach.”
When challenged about why so many schools were still experiencing problems, she added:
“We’re in the midst of a pandemic, there are going to be unique challenges for all schools and a variety of different challenges depending on the school that you find yourself in.
“That will always be the way.”
Main image: Minister for Education Norma Foley speaking outside the Department of Education in Dublin today. Photograph: Sam Boal / RollingNews.ie.