St Ronan’s College in Lurgan in ‘emergency mode’ as Covid ‘contingency’ plans enacted

A Co Armagh principal says her school is in ‘emergency mode’ as they share ‘contingency plans’ with parents amid a staffing crisis.

St Ronan’s College in Lurgan issued a letter today to parents and carers of the almost 1,800 pupils attending the school as more and more staff are either Covid positive or isolating.

Principal Fiona Kane said: “We are really trying to work hard to keep all the children in school. Ideally we want to keep the school open every single day for every single child.

However she admitted that the unknowns of how long staff may be off is adding to the complex challenges of organising a normal timetable.

Letter sent to parents and carers of pupils at St Ronan's College in Lurgan, Co Armagh today January 6, 2022.

“Every single school is facing the same challenges so we are just trying to do our best to keep everybody with us and keep our parents happy, keep our children in school learning and try to manage the workload for staff that are here and trying to support their colleagues who are off with Covid or isolating or looking after young children who are positive.”

Mrs Kane said: “Where that can’t take place we have a plan well established which would mean perhaps a year group staying at home or indeed if the school might need to close and we move to remote learning. That would be the last resort.

“At the minute we are just very much in crisis operational mode, emergency mode. We had a teacher who tested positive at lunchtime and who wasn’t well and had to go home. We are planning ahead for tomorrow to try and keep ahead of the curve. But there was relief when someone we didn’t expect in until Monday is coming back tomorrow. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle. So long as everybody is safe and well that is the main thing.”

The complex plan for St Ronan’s College, issued in a letter to teachers this week, outlines what might happen if too many staff are absent from the school.

The letter says: “We do have a number of staff absent at the moment as a result of Covid-19 and are working hard in school to maintain full provision and normal timetable for all pupils.

“However you will appreciate we are faced with a changing landscape and it may be necessary to make some adjustments in the days and weeks ahead, if levels of staff absence reach a tipping point to maintain adequate cover and normal delivery.

“Pupil attendance so far has been good but we would like to see full attendance from pupils who are well and not isolating. Please inform the appropriate site office if your child is absent due to Covid-19 (positive case/awaiting PCR result/unwell-symptomatic/isolating) to help us monitor the impact of coronavirus on our student population and to offer appropriate support.

“If the tipping point of teaching staff absence is reached, the proposed plan below will be implemented:

A year group (at least) per day will remain at home. Teachers will be redirected to cover classes on site as needed.

Live online learning will not be able to be facilitated for year group(s) directed to stay at home.”

The letter then outlines which year groups will be asked to stay at home on alternate days on each week over the next three weeks.

The school said this would be reviewed daily.

“If absolutely necessary and with the approval of the Chair of Governors, the school will be closed and all pupils and teaching staff will move to remote learning and teaching. This will be communicated to all staff, parents, carers and pupils as soon as possible via the College app and also by text message.

“The College will remain open for support staff and for statemented/vulnerable children at parental request.”