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School's out Wexford primary school shuts doors after 34 Covid cases detected

Principal Vicky Barron said the school has not closed and that teaching will continue remotely

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CBS Primary School Principal Vicky Barron.

CBS Primary School Principal Vicky Barron.

CBS Primary School Principal Vicky Barron.

The principal of a primary school which has shut its doors due to a Covid-19 outbreak said teaching is continuing remotely for pupils.

Vicky Barron of CBS Primary School in Wexford town said there are now 34 cases of Covid-19 reported in the school, as of this morning.

Ms Barron said the school has not closed and that teaching will continue remotely. She said she feels this is the right call to keep everyone safe. The school recorded 30 Covid positive cases in one week.

“We haven’t closed, all our teachers are on site working on delivering remote learning to all our families so we’re very much open but just the children are not on site,” she told RTÉ Radio’s News at One.

Ms Barron said it was a difficult decision for the board of management to keep children away from the school grounds.

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Girls walking to school (Ian West/PA)

Girls walking to school (Ian West/PA)

Girls walking to school (Ian West/PA)

“To backtrack, we started with one case Friday week ago and a second case came in on Sunday in the same room and we were informed by parents that there were positive antigen tests and these children weren’t all in the same pod so it was throughout the room so we knew that trouble was starting on Monday.

“The guidance with the HSE is that you’re not a close contact once you’re in a primary school... so all of the other children were not deemed as close contacts, so they were allowed to attend school on Monday.

"It was as more cases came into us on Monday that the board of management took the decision to close down that class and not allow them back into school, that they all had to get tested.

“On Tuesday, as more cases were coming in over the weekend in that same classroom, I queried with the HSE why they would not be deemed as close contacts considering it was very obvious at least to me that this was a school outbreak as we could have had 10 cases at that stage,” she said.

Ms Barron said that until any of the children who were being tested for the virus came back as positive, their siblings were still allowed to attend school.

“The HSE then instructed us that all the students had to be tested.

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"Until any of those children tested positive all of the siblings are deemed as casual contacts, so they were allowed to attend school as per the HSE guidance.

“The last of the children in that second class who came back positive, those siblings were then withdrawn from school.

"At the weekend we were informed of siblings in our second class testing positive and when we did the maths and looked at the last day those children were present, they would have been present in our school during a time when they were potentially infectious and had they had contact with other children in the class we would not see cases until today or tomorrow,” she said.

Ms Barron said she sought the advice of Public Health in relation to closing the school premises to children.

“The HSE don’t give that advice, that it’s up to the board of management to make that call so we did, we’re just sorry we didn’t make it sooner.

"I was told yesterday that the board of management makes the decisions for the health and safety of everyone in the school.

She added: “I’m not qualified to make these calls but on Tuesday I was sent a contact tracing form and I was asked not to include the children on that form who were already positive.

"So the children’s names who went to the HSE as part of the schools referrals template are significantly less than the children who went privately for testing.”

The advice from HSE is that children who have symptoms of Covid-19 are asked to stay at home.

“A number of children in the second class are asymptomatic and they’ve now passed it on to their siblings,” she continued.

Ms Barron said there were no out of school activities taking place outside of school hours. She said the school has problems with ventilation and that the CO2 monitors are “not good enough”.

“We have 30 children in that second class, we have problems with our ventilation, and we’ve been screaming to the high heavens that CO2 monitors are not good enough.

“The CO2 monitor in that classroom was red and the class teacher brings her children out regularly to get out of the room, but it’s not big enough for the 30 children and we’ve nowhere else to put them.

“Opening windows does not deal with this. Somebody brought it into the room but what has happened is the onward transmission that has occurred is obvious,” she said.

Ms Barron said the school will not be opening until after the mid-term break at the earliest.

In a statement issued to RTÉ News, the Health Service Executive said the Public Health Department, HSE/South East area has been providing public health advice to schools in response to cases of Covid-19 but has not advised the closure of any schools in recent weeks.

In a statement to Independent.ie, the Department of Education said it could not comment on individual cases.

They added; “As has been the case throughout the pandemic, the approach to supporting schools to operate safely during Covid-19 has been to follow and implement public health advice. Covid-19 Response Plans are in place in all schools.

"They set out the range of measures required to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and provide clear and helpful guidance for the safe operation through prevention, early detection and control of Covid-19 in school.

“If there are particular outbreaks of concern in educational facilities, Public Health teams will continue to provide support to schools should it be required and testing will remain available more broadly to children should it be required on public health or clinical grounds or following a Public Health Risk Assessment (PHRA).

“Any pupil/student who has symptoms which could be consistent with Covid-19 should not attend school. This will help to keep Covid-19 out of schools in the first instance,” the spokesperson said.

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