"Huge absenteeism" expected in schools this week ahead of Christmas break 4 months ago

"Huge absenteeism" expected in schools this week ahead of Christmas break

Some parents hope that keeping their kids home will prevent spreading the virus to more vulnerable relatives over Christmas.

Schools are expecting high levels of absenteeism this week due to Covid-related fears ahead of the Christmas break.

Primary and secondary schools are due to finish up on Wednesday, December 22, after some calls for an early closure amid rising case numbers and the Omicron variant were rejected by the Department of Education.

The Irish Times reports that school principals are expecting attendance to be down 25 per cent or more between today and Wednesday as concerned parents keep their kids home ahead of socialising with more vulnerable family members over Christmas.

Séamus Mulconry, general secretary of the Catholic Primary Schools Management Association said: “Families are making decisions based on the fact that, in some cases, they are meeting with vulnerable family members over Christmas and want to minimise the risk, which is very understandable,” he said.

Many schools have been sending students’ books home with them for the Christmas period and re-familiarising themselves with remote teaching platforms in case schools do not re-open on January 6 as planned.

Matt Melvin, principal of St Etchen’s National School in Kinnegad, Co Westmeath, said senior Department of Education officials have been “adamant” over recent days that the re-opening will go ahead as planned.

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“If that is the case, schools will need support to be ramped up. That means a resumption of contact tracing and greater assistance for principals, because they will be reopening in a more challenging environment,” he said.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told Newstalk it was “the right decision” to keep schools open as planned ahead of the break and said there are no plans to make changes to their date of reopening.

“The transmission that's happening is happening mainly in households from adults to children,” he said.

“So let’s not forget children spend 120 hours a week not in school and, I know this is disputed by many people, but they would argue that it’s not driven by the schools.

“And the logical thing I think from the Government point of view is to close the schools on time as planned and reopen them in the New Year as planned, and that applies to colleges as well,” he added.