Here at Clongowes Wood College SJ, we have undertaken comprehensive measures to ensure the safety of our students, staff and visitors during the covid-19 pandemic.
Irish schools were required close and move to online learning in March 2020, it was then that we began to plan our measures and policies to ensure we could re-open in a safe manner in September 2020. The aim of these measures was to decrease the risk of transmission whilst also trying to keep the school experience as ‘normal’ and enjoyable as possible for students and staff.
One of the key initiatives we undertook was to refurbish the school Infirmary and to dedicate a floor of our ensuite senior bedrooms as isolation rooms to be used should we have a suspected case or confirmed case of covid-19.
As we opened our doors in September to welcome our new students and those returning we put into action our covid plan.
- Education: a comprehensive education and communication plan for staff and students around covid and how to reduce the risks of contracting and spreading the virus.
- Bubbles: Student year groups were established as ‘bubbles’. The timetable and co-curricular programme were adjusted to ensure no mixing of boys from one bubble to another.
- Face coverings: reusable masks are worn by staff and students during the class day.
- Movement within the school: We are fortunate to have a large school so space was never going to pose a problem for our covid safety measures. Nonetheless, we have established one way systems on our large corridors to mitigate any risks.
- Hand Hygiene: Hand sanitiser stations are in place throughout the College – both indoor and outdoor for sports. The stations are signposted clearly and students and staff are actively encouraged to regularly wash and sanitise their hands.
- Testing: Our refurbished Infirmary is manned by four registered nurses, each of whom has been trained to administer covid testing as needed. Our school doctor, Dr Dunne, is an invaluable member of our medical and covid advisory team. Additionally, a mass testing event took place on the first day back after the mid-term break with some 600 tests carried out on students and staff with results in 24 hours. All tests were negative for covid.
- In the Classroom: In accordance with the guidance from the Department of Education, our desks are spaced at least 1M apart in the classroom and the teacher is 2M from the students at all times. Windows and doors are open to provide ventilation. All desks are cleaned after each student.
- Liturgies: The highlight of our week is our Sunday liturgy where the entire school comes together for Sunday Mass joined by parents and family members. As part of our covid planning, the Sunday liturgy has been moved to a live-streamed service whereby one Year Group is present for Mass in the Sports Hall and the remaining five Year Groups watch the Mass live as it is streamed to five other locations within the College. Mass is also available to parents and Old Clongownians at https://www.churchservices.tv/clongowes
- The James Joyce Library: Clongowes has a vibrant reading community with the boys encouraged to enjoy reading by our Librarian Ms O’Loughlin. Keen to keep access to our over 8,000 books in a safe and controlled way, the boys now browse the titles online and pre-order a book that they wish to read. In additions to physical titles, the Library has a host of audio and e-reader books.
- Sport: All sport is carried out in year group bubbles or pods of 14 as the sporting governing bodies require. A greater variety of sports have been introduced into the weekly programme to make up for the lack of competitive fixtures that have not been permitted under government guidelines. The swimming pool is as busy as ever with just the showers not in use. The weights gym has been moved to a larger space to allow for physical distancing.
- Air Purifying: The school has invested in machines to allow us to ‘clean’ the air in busy areas such as the weights gym and dormitories.
- Singing: One to one singing lessons are continuing as normal and have been moved to large, well-ventilated venues.
- Temperature checking: Staff must pass through a temperature check before entering the building every day. Students temperatures are measured at least three times a day by technology that is placed at the entrance to the Refectory. Any spike in temperature is notified immediately to the Infirmary.
- Visitors: All visitors sign a waiver confirming they are not experiencing covid symptoms and give their details for contact tracing. Additionally, face coverings are worn by all visitors and their temperatures are taken at Reception. Parents are asked not to enter the school this year for the safety of our students and staff.
- Dining: The large Refectory has been reconfigured to allow just four students from the same year group at any one table. Mealtimes are extended to allow physical distancing in the Refectory. Students and staff no longer us self-service counters or buffets but the quality and variety of our food has not diminished in any way – it is still as delicious and nutritious as ever.
- Quarantine for Overseas Students: The school accommodates quarantine programmes at the start of the year and after holidays. Boys are kept busy and are tested before joining the school community.
- Weekend breaks and holidays: Due to restrictions with travel and the quarantine guidelines, it has not been possible for some students to travel back to see their families outside of Ireland. Some have opted to stay with their guardians at weekends and holidays while some have stayed in the College. Normally, the school closes during these periods but during the covid pandemic, we have remained open to facilitate overseas students.
We would like to thank our staff and students for wholeheartedly embracing our covid protocols and for our parents for their support in keeping Clongowes a safe and happy school for the entire community.