Schools Closed

by Zhang Qi

The Irish government on Monday issued multi-lingual advice for parents of primary and secondary school students as part of its latest efforts in preparing a safe opening of schools in the country in the next week.

The two-page Back to School Advice for Parents, which was issued by the Irish Department of Education and Skills, comes in 21 foreign languages, including Chinese, French, German, Spanish and Arabic. The advice is even available in Pashto, Kurdish and Somali.

The phenomenal work involved in the translation of the advice in multi-languages demonstrates the determination of the Irish government that all the schools in the country, which have been shut down since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will be opened safely and timely at the end of this month.

There are an estimated one million students studying at some 4,000 primary and secondary schools in Ireland, according to a Monday report by the Irish national radio and television broadcaster RTE.

According to the advice issued by the Department of Education and Skills, all the staff and students at secondary schools must wear face coverings where it is impossible to maintain the 2-meter social distancing and wearing a face covering when waiting for and aboard a school bus is mandatory for all secondary school students.

Parents of secondary school students are also advised to encourage their children to go to school on foot or bike.

Younger children at primary schools may not be required to practice physical distancing, but they may be organized into pods, said the advice.

To ensure social distancing on school buses, Irish Minister for Education Norma Foley said last week that her department has decided to cut the capacity on secondary school transport by 50 percent.

This requires an additional 1,600 school buses across the country by next week, she said, adding that her department is now in discussion with Bus Eireann (Ireland) to roll out the additional required capacity as quickly and speedily as possible.

The Irish Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science on Monday announced a 5-million-euro (about 5.9 million U.S. dollars) funding for the support of students’ mental health and wellbeing at colleges and universities.

Part of the funding will be used to recruit additional student counselors and assistant psychologists, said the department in a statement.

Last month, the Irish government announced a 375-million-euro school reopening plan, of which 75 million euros will be used to alter buildings and classrooms to ensure one-meter physical distancing at secondary schools, according to Norma Foley.

On Monday night, the Department of Health reported another 147 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ireland, a daily figure only frequently seen during the peak time of the pandemic in the country in April and May.

To date, a total of 28,116 people have contracted COVID-19 in the country and 1,777 of them have died from the virus, according to the department. (1 euro = 1.18 U.S. dollars) Enditem

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