Covid-19: Primary school closes until November after outbreak of 30 cases

‘Serious flaws’ with revised close contact rules, CBS primary school says

School’s board of management says  it is closing the 270-pupil school as a ‘vital health and safety precaution for all’. File photograph: iStock

School’s board of management says it is closing the 270-pupil school as a ‘vital health and safety precaution for all’. File photograph: iStock

 

A primary school in Co Wexford has blamed “serious flaws” with revised close contact rules for an outbreak of more than 30 cases of Covid-19, which has forced it to shut until next month.

It follows an emergency meeting of CBS primary school’s board of management on Sunday evening. The board said it was closing the 270-pupil school as a “vital health and safety precaution for all”.

Under changes to rules last month, children who are close contacts of confirmed Covid-19 cases in primary schools are no longer required to self-isolate if they are symptom free.

The move has meant that thousands of children, who were previously forced to isolate at home, have been able to continue attending class.

In a message to parents issued just before 6pm on Sunday, school principal Vicky Barron* said the school’s board decided to close due to the volume of Covid-19 cases.

She said the school was first informed of a case in one of the school’s classes on October 8th last, and a second case two days later.

Ms Barron said that under revised HSE Covid-19 guidelines for schools, children in the class were no longer classed as close contacts and no contact tracing was carried out. As a result, “children without symptoms were allowed to attend school”.

Total doses distributed to Ireland Total doses administered in Ireland
10,093,390 8,193,802

By October 11th, she said the school was informed of two further positive cases and the board of management took the decision to close the class.

“It was only on Tuesday 12th that the HSE recognised that the entire class were close contacts and sent all children for testing,” the letter states.

Siblings of that class were advised to continue to attend school by the HSE as they were recognised as “casual contacts”, she said.

“As the week progressed, we had 19 positive cases in the class, with some children testing positive on their second test. However, siblings were only advised to isolate once a case was found in their household,” Ms Barron’s letter states.

“A number of siblings have now tested positive throughout the school, and many are asymptomatic. It is now evident that many of these children were present at school during the infectious period [through no fault of parents as HSE guidance was followed].

“We also had over 35 per cent of children absent on Friday of last week, many parents citing illness as the reason. We have also been sending children home daily with symptoms of Covid-19,” she wrote.

“As it stands, this evening we have over 30 cases of Covid-19 in our school and expect to hear more in the coming days.”

Ms Barron said the school has “cleaned and fogged our school daily but we have been told again by the HSE that there is little protection against the Delta airborne virus.”

Ms Barron added: “It is very clear that there are serious flaws in the HSE guidance in schools and the board of management has decided, in the best interests for the health and safety of all our pupils and their families, to implement these emergency measures.”

While the school building will remain closed, she said the school will continue to teach online.

Under Department of Education rules, schools are permitted to close only on the advice of public health authorities. Schools which have decided to close on their own, without the advice of public health authorities, have faced pressure to reopen by the Department of Education.

Health authorities have said, meanwhile, that latest data indicates that schools continue to be a low-risk environment for transmission of Covid-19.

*This article was amended on October 18th, 2021

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