Schools in Ireland need to be closed in the winter so that the ventilation in the classrooms can be left open and cool.
There is a widespread complaint before the Oriachtus Education Committee that if the ventilation is opened as part of the Covid defense, the classrooms will not be able to keep warm and the children will have to sit in the cold.
Kieran Christie, general secretary of the Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI), said that with the onset of winter, classrooms are struggling to maintain heat and ensure ventilation.
Christie told the committee that the sanitation and ventilation facilities in the schools need to be upgraded and that the union is concerned about the different capacity of the schools in implementing the activities as part of the Covid Response Project.
He said there was a lack of communication protocols in schools to confirm the spread of Covid and that quick inspection should be implemented in schools.
The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) has warned that some schools will be forced to close due to lack of proper ventilation and winter heating facilities.
At the same time, TUI General Secretary Michael Gillespie said that many second – tier schools in Ireland do not have the facilities to withstand the winter, and that these facilities should be fully audited and assessed.
TUI has also asked the education department to install air quality meters in all classrooms on the advice of HPSC (Health Protection Surveillance Center). He said that this would help in avoiding the compulsive situation of having to study in cold classes.
At the same time, John Boyle, general secretary of the Irish National Teachers’ Organization (INTO), said that free flu vaccine should be made available to all teachers and that teachers should be given priority if the Covid vaccine is available.
He said the health of children going abroad with their families for Christmas should be ensured after their return and only after this should they be admitted to schools.
Christie said the government should refrain from forcing high school teachers and students in the high school category to attend school in the wake of the Covid outbreak and that he was upset that pregnant teachers and vulnerable students were coming to school.