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Open letter from Acting Chief Medical Officer to parents, guardians of school children, and school staff

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To parents and guardians of school children in Ireland, I am very aware that many of you are worried about the reopening of schools and the associated risk of COVID-19 for your children. This concern is natural and is to be fully expected after a period of six months during which we have all had to adapt to the challenges posed by COVID-19.

The decision to reopen schools has not been taken lightly and has been based on guidance produced by international bodies including the World Health Organization (WHO), and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC); scientific evidence regarding the risk of COVID-19 in school children and staff; the experience of other countries that have not closed, or have reopened their schools; our own experience having reopened childcare settings and summer camps since June; and evidence regarding the importance of school for the overall health and well-being of children.

International evidence shows us that child-to-child and child-to-adult transmission of COVID-19 in schools is uncommon. In addition, our own experience to date in Ireland, and indeed that reported internationally, demonstrates that for the overwhelming majority of children who are diagnosed with COVID-19, their symptoms will be mild.

The importance of schools for the overall health and well-being of children cannot be overstated, and the risk of COVID-19 has been carefully weighed against the very real harm that can be caused by sustained school closures. Schools play a fundamental role in the social life of children; they are where children are educated, make friends, share interests, learn social skills like self-confidence and empathy, and participate in sport and cultural activities.

Of course, as we continue to navigate our way through this pandemic, there are no zero risk options for reopening schools or indeed any other environment; the aim, therefore, is to reopen in as safe a way as possible by ensuring that all appropriate public health measures such as physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene are implemented where appropriate.

KEY ROLE

Schools are at the heart of our communities and the best way to protect them is to keep the level of COVID-19 in the community low. As parents and guardians, you can play a key role in this, both through your own actions and through the influence that you have on your family and friends. If all of us continue to make small changes to the way we live, we can - together - starve this virus of opportunities to transmit.

While it is okay to send your child to school or childcare if they only have a runny nose or a sneeze, if you have any concerns that your child has symptoms of COVID-19 - fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell – then please keep them at home until you have spoken with your GP by phone. Lots more information is available at gov.ie/backtoschool and hse.ie.

There will be cases of COVID-19 among children over the coming days and weeks, as there have been throughout this pandemic to date. But when this happens our public health teams in the HSE will respond and liaise closely with the school involved and ensure that all necessary measures are taken to protect other students and school staff.

Finally, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for all you have done to keep your family and our communities safe over the past seven months. I also want to thank all teachers, principals and school staff who have worked so hard to ensure that our schools are ready to reopen – it is just one more example of the incredible solidarity that has defined the way in which people all across the country have come together to play their part in getting us through this pandemic.

Dr. Ronan Glynn, Acting Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health.

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Killarney woman completes every parkrun in the country

By Sean Moriarty A Killarney woman has entered the record books after completing every parkrun in the country – and more. There are one hundred open parkruns in Ireland and […]

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By Sean Moriarty

A Killarney woman has entered the record books after completing every parkrun in the country – and more.

There are one hundred open parkruns in Ireland and a further three that take place behind closed doors in prisons and in health institutions and Majella Moloney has completed all of them.

On Saturday last she completed the Irish list by finishing the Borrisokane run in County Offaly.

She was inspired to take up parkruns by her work colleague Stephen Byrne after suffering a personal crisis in 2017.

“It is so good for my mental health, I can’t explain the feel good factor,” she told the Killarney Advertiser. “My personal circumstances changed dramatically in January 2017 and I needed to do something for my mental health.”

She has also done parkruns all over Europe; in total she has participated in 178 runs in countries like Britain, Germany, Poland and Italy.

She has also volunteered for 180 parkruns, often acting as ‘tail walker’ on the event she had entered.

In March this year Majella completed her parkrun Alphabet Challenge by participating in a parkrun in 26 different cities – one for each letter – York in England and Zielona Góra in Western Poland were the two most difficult letters to tick off.

“parkrun has helped me so much,” she added, “I have made friends all over the world.”

Later this year she will join her English friends Don and Sue Esslemont on a parkrun in Britain.

“Sue is doing her 500th walk this year. I first met them in Buncrana [County Donegal] and they encouraged me to travel to more events – it is one big family.”

She also paid tribute to Bertie and Bairbre Hickey from Tralee who have joined her on over 20 runs across Ireland.

SIDEBAR

A new parkrun for four to 14-year-olds has been launched in Killarney.

The first local junior parkrun will take place in Killarney House and Gardens on Sunday at 9.30am.

“Tralee has been holding junior parkruns for a while now but this is a first for Killarney,” Majella said.

The adult Killarney parkrun will take place as usual on Saturdays.

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Students awarded for their contribution to school life

By Michelle Crean Students were honoured for their contribution to school life this week during a special end of year awards ceremony. Held in the school gym on Wednesday afternoon, […]

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By Michelle Crean

Students were honoured for their contribution to school life this week during a special end of year awards ceremony.

Held in the school gym on Wednesday afternoon, the students from St Brigid’s Presentation were presented with a variety of awards from sport to science, music and visual art while Sixth Year student Saoirse Coffey received the Orla Benson Award.

“During this school year, our students have showcased their brilliance and extensive talents,” teacher Adrienne Brosnan, said.

“We are all so proud of these outstanding achievements across all aspects of school life. Awards day is a truly special occasion for all members of the St Brigid’s community and one which we relish the opportunity to celebrate. It is a time of anticipation, a time of excitement and a time of great joy. The awards that are presented are a testament to that dedication and we also acknowledge all the great work that is done by the teachers here in St Brigid’s.”

Sixth Year students also said their final goodbyes ahead of their State exams next month.

“We wish them the best of luck as they spread their wings and leave the shelter of St Brigid’s for the beginning of a new adventure.”

AWARD WINNERS

Other awards winners were:

Anna Dunlea received the Contribution to Graphics award while Leah Vinluan got the Design and Communication Graphics award.

Clodagh O’Connor and Sarah O’Sullivan both received the Contribution to Visual Art award.

Abbie Finan was awarded Soccer: Player of the Year, Chloe Hue Senior Football: Player of the Year, Emily Buckley 1st Year Football: Player of the Year, Abbey Cronin 2nd Year Football: Player of the Year, and Andrea Murphy Junior Football; Player of the Year, Senior Basketball: Most Valued Player went to Tara Donnellan, the Minor Basketball: Most Valued Player was given to Ciara O’Sullivan and the Cadette Basketball: Most Valued Player went to Leah McMahon.

Kara Huggard earned herself the LCA Student of the Year, Sarah McGrath received the CEIST Award, Excellence in Science was awarded to Emma Myers and Jennie O’Mahony, while Rita Akhter received the Overall Contribution to STEM.

Bríd O’Connor who wrote the book Spark presented Saoirse O’Sullivan with the Outstanding Achievements in Music award.

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