CO2 monitors insufficient to combat Covid, says principal of school forced to shut

‘We’re just sorry we didn’t do it sooner,’ says Vicky Barron on decision to close school

The flaw in the HSE’s guidelines was children not being considered close contacts, said Wexford principal Vicky Barron

The flaw in the HSE’s guidelines was children not being considered close contacts, said Wexford principal Vicky Barron

 

CO2 monitors are not a sufficient measure to combat Covid-19 in schools and HSE guidelines for schools are not sufficient to prevent transmission, according to the principal of a Wexford primary school that has been forced to shut until next month following an outbreak of the virus.

Vicky Barron of CBS primary school in Co Wexford on Monday said that under HSE guidelines, asymptomatic children were allowed to go to school even if they were close contacts, however a number of children in her school were found to be positive despite not having any symptoms.

There were now 34 positive cases in the school, she said.

The school’s board of management held an emergency meeting over the weekend. 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.

Obvious

“The HSE say this is not a school outbreak, but then what is it? It didn’t come out of the walls. Somebody brought it into the room,” said Ms Barron.

It was obvious that there had been onward transmission within the classroom, she told RTÉ’s News at One.

There were 30 children in one room where there were problems with ventilation, she said. “We have been screaming that CO2 monitors are not enough.”

In the classroom in question, when the CO2 monitors turned red the teacher brought the children out of the room, and it was obvious that opening windows was not enough and that the room was not big enough for 30 children, she said.

Ms Barron said that while the school building was closed remote classes were being delivered by teachers on learning platforms. Closing the building was the right call, she added.

“We’re just sorry we didn’t do it sooner.”

The flaw in the HSE’s guidelines was children not being considered close contacts, she said.

When the number of children from the school testing positive began to rise last week, Ms Barron had filled out a contact tracing form, but she could not include some of the children as they would not be deemed as close contacts by the HSE under their guidelines.

In some cases it was not until parents took their (asymptomatic) children for private tests that the school became aware they were positive for the virus.

The school building will remain closed until after the mid term break which commences next Friday. Special events for Halloween such as a dress up day will go ahead after the mid term break, said Ms Barron.