Covid 19 Response


Reopening Our School March 2021-Plan for Rathnure NS

(based on the Response Plan for the Safe & Sustainable reopening of Primary schools published by the Department of Education which can be read in full at:

A range of essential control measures have been implemented to reduce the risk of the spread of Covid-19 virus and to protect the safety, health and welfare of staff, pupils, parents and visitors as far as possible within the school. The control measures shall continue to be reviewed and updated as required on an ongoing basis.  It is critical that staff, pupils, parents and visitors are aware of, and adhere to, the control measures outlined and that they fully cooperate with all health and safety requirements.

As a school, our aim as we re-open is to provide a safe and calm environment for our pupils and staff.  The purpose of this plan is to provide clear guidance in relation to new procedures at school.

This plan is subject to change at any time, depending on HSE and Department of Education guidelines.

How to Minimise the Risk of Introduction and spread of COVID-19 in Rathnure NS

  • Staff and pupils should not return to or attend school in the event of the following:
    • If they have symptoms of Covid 19
    • if they are identified by the HSE as a close contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19
    • if they live with someone who has symptoms of the virus
    • If they have travelled outside of Ireland; in such instances staff are advised to consult and follow latest Government advice in relation to foreign travel.
    • if they have been identified by the HSE as a contact for person with COVID-19 and should follow the HSE advice on restriction of movement;
  • Staff and pupils must cooperate with any public health officials and the school for contact tracing purposes and follow any public health advice in the event of a case or outbreak in the school;
  • Staff and pupils that develop symptoms at school should bring this to the attention of the Principal promptly.
  • Pupils will wash their hands on arrival to the classroom.
  • Those entering the school building need to perform hand hygiene with a hand sanitiser;
  • Visitors to the school during the day should be by prior arrangement, will be received at the secretary’s office and will be required to fill in a Contact Tracing Log
  • Physical distancing (of 2m) should be maintained between staff and visitors where possible.
  • Staff are required to complete a Return to Work Form.
  • Parents are required to complete a Return to Education Declaration for their child following absence.

Know the Symptoms of COVID-19:

✓ High temperature

✓ Cough

✓ Shortness of breath or breathing difficulties

✓ Loss of smell, of taste or distortion of taste


The Department has published guidance setting out the practical steps for good ventilation in accordance with public health advice ‘Practical Steps for the Deployment of Good Ventilation Practices in Schools’

The guidance sets out an overall approach for schools that:

  • windows should be open as fully as possible when classrooms are not in use (e.g. during break-times or lunch-times (assuming not in use) and also at the end of each school day)
  • and partially open when classrooms are in use.
  • The guidance provides that good ventilation can be achieved in classrooms without causing discomfort, particularly during cold weather.

We advise parents that pupils should wear extra layers to school to prevent them feeling cold.  They may also bring a separate jumper/cardigan to wear over their uniform when in the classroom.  Their coats will be worn outside.

Respiratory Hygiene

  • Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your bent elbow when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately and safely into a nearby bin. By following good respiratory hygiene, you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and Covid-19.
  • Blow your nose into a tissue or elbow-Bin the tissue-Wash/sanitise your hands

Hand Hygiene

Staff and pupils should understand why hand hygiene is important as well as when and how to wash their hands.

As a school, we will promote good hygiene and display posters throughout the schools on how to wash your hands, along with training when we return to school.

  • Hand sanitiser dispensers have been positioned at the entrance doors to the school, at the doors of each classroom and other rooms in the school and on each group table.
  • Hand washing facilities will be maintained in good condition and supplies of soap and towels will be topped up regularly to encourage everyone to use them.
  • Posters displaying hand washing techniques and promoting hand washing will be placed on walls adjacent to washing facilities.
  • Hand sanitiser is suitable for use for hand hygiene when hands are not visibly dirty.
  • HSE guidelines on handwashing:
  • Pupils and staff should perform hand hygiene:
  • On arrival at school;
  • Leaving the school building
  • Before eating or drinking;
  • Before and after using the toilet;
  • After playing outdoors;
  • When their hands are physically dirty;
  • When they cough or sneeze.

Physical Distancing

Physical distancing will look different across the various ages and stages of learning.  As a rule, the staff in the classroom will endeavour to maintain physical distance from pupils and other staff members as much as possible.

It is also recognised that it is not always possible for staff to maintain physical distance from pupils and it is not appropriate that they would always be expected to do so where this could have a detrimental impact on the pupil i.e. if a child sustains an injury and requires first aid.

However, where possible staff should maintain a minimum of 1m distance and where possible 2m from one another and pupils. They should also take measures to avoid close contact at face to face level such as remaining standing rather than sitting beside/crouching down. 

  • The school will not be open to pupils until 9am-pupils should not be on the school grounds before then.
  • Only pupils and school staff are permitted to come into the school yard and building at drop-off and collection times.
  • Pupils should make their way directly to their classroom when they arrive at school each morning-no congregating in the school yard.  The pupils are expected to sit down in their place directly after washing their hands, on arrival to the classroom.
  • Each class will enter and exit the school from a different door.
    • Junior Infants (Classroom 4)
    • Emergency Exit door-Around the corner from the oil tank
  • Senior Infants (Classroom 1)
    • Emergency Exit under flags
  • First Class (Classroom 2)
    • Double doors at Junior end of school yard
  • Second Class (Classroom 5)
    • Double Doors at Senior End of school yard
  • Third Class (Classroom 11-School Hall)
    • Front Door
  • Fourth Class (Classroom 7)
    • Emergency Exit door at bike rack
  • Fifth Class (Classroom 6)
    • Emergency Exit door at court
  • 6th class (Classroom 8)
    • Double Doors at Senior End of school yard
  • Classes will leave the school in a staggered system at 2.50pm so as to minimise crowding at exits. 6th class will leave first and other classes after each other. Adults collecting pupils from 1st-6th class should be in the carpark from 2.50pm.
  • Collection of Junior Infants at 1.55pm Senior Infants at 2pm will be at separate areas of the school which are marked out in rectangular courts.  We ask that adults collecting children would spread out inside the court markings, so that you can maintain a 2m distance from one another. Please remember an umbrella when the weather is wet.
  • Junior Infants to 2nd class do not have to adhere to physical distancing of 1m but we will seat them in pods and the pods will be distanced as much as possible from one another in the classrooms.
  • 3rd class will be situated in the school hall so as to provide enough space to distance all 32 pupils and the staff.  Handwashing facilities will be provided and they will use the closest toilet on the corridor.
  • 4th class will use a number of single desks in order to create more space in the classroom.
  • 5th & 6th class will be taught in separate classrooms by Ms. Hayden and Mrs. Keogh.
  • Each class group will only mix with their own class from arrival at school in the morning until departure at the end of the school day.
  • Pupils will be allocated a seat and must sit in the same seat every day.
  • Break times and outdoor access will be staggered so as to limit the number of people on the yard.  It is not possible to maintain physical distancing when pupils in primary schools play together outdoors, but in so far as practical, it is helpful to keep to consistent groups.
  • Staff members who move from class to class will be limited as much as possible.
  • A distance of 2m is recommended for physical distancing by adults in the school.
  • Limited interaction on arrival and departure and in hallways and other shared areas. Everyone will be encouraged to walk on the left of the corridors of the school.
  • Social physical contact (Hand to hand greetings, hugs) will be discouraged.
  • We will minimise equipment sharing and will clean equipment between uses. Each pupil will be supplied with a plastic box to store their belongings at school.
  • Sharing of resources within classes will be limited as much as possible.  Art and PE equipment used by classes will be thoroughly cleaned before use by another class.
  • Pupils must bring their own water to school each day.
  • There may be an impact on certain other school activities.
  • A First Aid kit including PPE will be situated at a central point in the school yard for use at break-times. Where possible, pupils will be encouraged to administer their own first aid under the direction of a staff member-i.e. putting on a plaster/using an icepack etc.  Where it is necessary for a staff member to administer first aid, they will wear PPE when doing so.

Hygiene and Cleaning

Rathnure NS will follow the specific advice in relation to school cleaning, which is set out by the HPSC.  Extra funding will allow for us to hire an extra cleaner along with supporting us to cover the costs of extra cleaning supplies.

  • The school will be thoroughly cleaned every day.  Cleaning will be focused on frequently touched surfaces – door handles, hand rails, desks, chairs/arm rests, communal eating areas, sink and toilet facilities. Cleaning checklists will be displayed in all classrooms, offices and the staffroom.
  • Classroom resources and equipment will be cleaned daily by the staff.
  • Foot pedal bins will be used in classrooms and toilets.
  • A supply of gloves, masks, wipes, aprons, paper towels and other hygiene/cleaning equipment will be available in each classroom.
  • Lunchboxes should be washed at home daily.
  • Staff will wear PPE in situations where a distance of 2m cannot be maintained between them and the pupils. We will also encourage staff to wear gloves when correcting work in copies/books and when administering First Aid.
  • School uniform will be flexible-pupils may alternate between wearing the school uniform and the school tracksuit to ensure that they wear clean clothes daily to school.

Special Educational Needs

For children with special educational needs (SEN) maintaining physical distancing in many instances will not be practical or appropriate to implement.  

  • Children who are unable to wash their hands by themselves should be assisted to clean their hands using soap and water or a hand sanitiser (if their hands are visibly clean) as outlined previously.
  • Some children may have care needs (physical or behavioural) which requires the use of aids and appliances and/or medical equipment for example toileting aids, moving and handling equipment, respiratory equipment.
  • As Ms. Hayden is teaching 5th class, we will be in a position where we will just have one dedicated Special Educational Needs teacher this year, Ms. Doyle. As per our SEN policy, we will allocate the additional teaching support to those pupils with the greatest need.  Priority will be given to:
    •  Pupils with complex needs identified by an external professional such as hearing/vision impairment, ASD, emotional disturbance, Moderate General Learning disability etc
    • Pupils on or under the 12th percentile in literacy/maths standardised tests
  • Classroom based support/differentiation of work will be provided by the class teacher.


Our focus in terms of curriculum for the coming term will be on supporting pupils where they are at in their learning and providing them with what they need in order to flourish and be successful. Priorities in terms of curriculum will be the core subjects of English, Irish and Maths.  Time will be used to revisit, consolidate and in some cases relearn curriculum content previously worked on either prior to the school closure or as part of distance learning. Homework, initially, will be limited to reading and maths tables.

Dealing with a Suspected Case of COVID-19

A designated isolation area has been identified within the school building.

If a staff member/pupil displays symptoms of COVID-19 while at school, the following are the procedures which the school will comply with:

  • If the person with the suspected case is a pupil, the parents/guardians will be contacted immediately;
  • Isolate the person and have a procedure in place to accompany the individual to the designated isolation area via the isolation route, keeping at least 2m away from the symptomatic person and also making sure that others maintain a distance of at least 2m from the symptomatic person at all times;
  • Remember that the virus is spread by droplets and is not airborne so physical separation is enough to reduce the risk of spread to others even if they are in the same room;
  • If it is not possible to maintain a distance of 2m a staff member caring for a pupil should wear a face covering or mask. Gloves should not be used as the virus does not pass through skin;
  • Provide a mask for the person presenting with symptoms if one is available. He/she should wear the mask if in a common area with other people or while exiting the premises;
  • Assess whether the individual who is displaying symptoms can immediately be directed to go home/be brought home by parents who will call their doctor and continue self isolation at home;
  • Facilitate the person presenting with symptoms remaining in isolation if they cannot immediately go home and facilitate them calling their doctor.
  • The individual should avoid touching people, surfaces and objects. Advice should be given to the person presenting with symptoms to cover their mouth and nose with the disposable tissue provided when they cough or sneeze and put the tissue in the waste bag provided;
  • If the person is well enough to go home, arrange for them to be transported home by a family member, as soon as possible and advise them to inform their general practitioner by phone of their symptoms. Public transport of any kind should not be used;
  • If they are too unwell to go home or advice is required, contact 999 or 112 and inform them that the sick person is a Covid-19 suspect;
  • The HSE will inform any staff/parents who have come into close contact with a diagnosed case via the contact tracing process. The HSE will contact all relevant persons where a diagnosis of COVID-19 is made. The instructions of the HSE should be followed and staff and pupil confidentiality is essential at all times.

Key Points for parents and pupils to remember every morning:

  • Pupils that have symptoms/are unwell must not attend school.
  • Know the Symptoms of COVID-19 and inform a staff member if experiencing symptoms.
    • High temperature
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath or breathing difficulties
    • Loss of smell, of taste or distortion of taste
  • Pupils must perform good respiratory hygiene.  Blow your nose into a tissue or elbow-Bin the tissue-Wash/sanitise your hands
  • Pupils must perform hand hygiene:
  • On arrival at school;
  • Before eating or drinking;
  • Before and after using the toilet;
  • After playing outdoors;
  • When their hands are physically dirty;
  • When they cough or sneeze.
  • Pupils must have their own tissues and bottle of hand sanitiser at school.
  • Maintain physical distance.