A Co Wexford primary school has blamed «serious flaws» with revised close contact rules for the outbreak of more than 30 cases of Covid-19, forcing it to close until next month.
This follows an emergency meeting of the CBS Elementary School Board of Directors yesterday evening. The board said it was closing a school for 270 students «as a vital precaution for the health and safety of all».
Under changes to the rules last month, children in close contact with confirmed cases of Covid-19 in primary schools are no longer required to self-isolate if they are asymptomatic.
The move means that thousands of children, who were previously forced into isolation at home, were able to continue attending class.
In a letter to parents issued just before 6pm on Sunday, Principal Vicky Barrow said the school board had decided to close due to the scale of Covid-19 cases.
While the school building will remain closed, she said she will continue to teach online.
She said the school was first notified of a case in one of the school’s classrooms last October 8, and a second case two days later.
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Ms Barrow said that under revised HSE Covid-19 guidelines for schools, children in the class were no longer classified as close contacts and no contact tracing had been conducted. As a result, «children without symptoms were allowed to go to school.»
By October 11, she said the school had been notified of two more positive cases and that the board had made the decision to close the class.
«Only Tuesday the 12th HSE realized that the entire class was in close contact and sent all the children for testing,» the letter read.
Siblings of that class were advised to continue attending school by HSE as they were identified as «unofficial contacts,» she said.
“As the week progressed, we had 19 positive cases in the class, with some children testing positive in the second test. However, only siblings were advised to isolate once a case was found in their home,” Ms Barrow’s letter states.
A number of siblings have now tested positive across the school, and many are asymptomatic. It is now clear that many of these children were present at school during the period of infection [through no fault of parents as HSE guidance was followed].
“We also had more than 35 per cent of children absent on Friday last week, and many parents cited illness as the cause. We also send children home daily with Covid-19 symptoms.”
«As it stands, this evening we have over 30 cases of Covid-19 in our school and we expect to hear more in the coming days.»
Ms Barrow said the school «cleaned and fogged our school daily, but we were told again by HSE that there was little protection against the airborne delta virus».
Ms Barrow added: “It is very clear that there are serious flaws in the Schools Health, Safety and Environment Guidelines, and the Board of Directors has decided, in the best interest of the health and safety of all our students and their families, to implement these emergency measures.”
Under Ministry of Education rules, schools are only allowed to close on the advice of public health authorities. Schools that decided to close on their own, without advice from public health authorities, have faced pressure to reopen by the Education Ministry.
Health authorities, meanwhile, said the latest data indicates that schools remain a low-risk environment for Covid-19 transmission.
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