Last of the worst-hit schools prepare to open after snow

Local farmers dig in to help reopen schools in Wexford and Kildare

A resident walks home with her groceries along a snow-covered road in Kilteel, Co Kildare. Photograph: Reuters/Clodagh Kilcoyne

A resident walks home with her groceries along a snow-covered road in Kilteel, Co Kildare. Photograph: Reuters/Clodagh Kilcoyne


Seven days after the snow arrived, Seán Ó Dubhlaing is finally preparing to open the doors of Kilnamanagh National School to pupils this morning.

Snow drifts buried the local roads while footpaths were transformed into ice-rinks in this rural part of Co Wexford, cutting off the school from the outside world.

“This has been unprecedented. It’s only in the last few hours that we’re seeing any significant thaw. There’s still ice on the pavements and roadways,” said Ó Dubhlaing, principal of the school which has about 25 pupils.

“The local farmers have been great in helping to clear the road leading down to the school. They worked until dark on Monday night to clear it.

“On Tuesday, we were breaking the ice along with four Fás groundsmen, parents, the special needs assistant, the school secretary and her husband.”

Safe access

Kilnamanagh is one of a number of schools across Wexford, Wicklow and Kildare which are only now able to provide safe access to their students.

Aileen Kennedy, principal of Loreto Primary School in Gorey, breathed a sigh of relief when she was able to send a text message to parents yesterday afternoon informing them the school will re-open today.

“Conditions are still far from ideal. Many of our pupils come on foot and we’re advising them to proceed with extreme caution,” said Kennedy.

The sheer volume of snow that fell in the area means the playground is out of bounds for the school’s 700-plus pupils, while the all-weather pitch is, ironically, still buried under a deep blanket. Even the school’s lollipop lady is still snowed-in and unable to leave her house.

“It’s only thanks to our caretaker, who has been incredible, and a local farmer that we’ve been able to open... the farmers have kept the county going.”

Both school principals say that at least pupils were kept busy with additional homework they gave prior to the school closures.

Additional work

Ó Dubhlaing said teachers were also able to email out additional work when they realised the closure would extend into this week.

This is the second closure both schools faced in this academic year. Storm Ophelia knocked out power and water in the areas last October resulting in lost days.

While schools may use some of the Easter holidays to make up for unforeseen closures, Ó Dubhlaing said he felt this would not be necessary.

He said instead of closing for training days – which were due over the coming months – teachers will do this either before or after school hours.

“We’re very fortunate to have help. We’re a small community with a big heart. It hasn’t been easy, but the fact that we’re opening is testament to help that available here when we need it.”