AMID a sprinkling of rain and a smidgeon of apprehension, parents yesterday walked their children through the gates of Scoil Iósaf primary school into the media spotlight and a new school term, albeit a week behind schedule.
There to greet them was school principal Denis O’Sullivan, delighted finally to open the doors after public health officials gave the green light for the return of pupils to the school at the centre of a TB outbreak.
“We’re delighted to be back at school this morning, albeit a week later than scheduled, and our focus this morning here in Ballintemple primary school is very much about creating a routine for the children,” Mr O’Sullivan said to waiting reporters.
With 25 children infected with TB at the Crab Lane school, it has been an anxious time for parents and staff.
“We have a junior infant class of 28 children joining us for our first contact this morning and our efforts and our energies will be geared towards ensuring that that is a positive experience for them and their families,” Mr O’Sullivan said.
Describing himself as “puzzled, confused and concerned” as to the source of the infection, he had nothing but praise for the Health Service Executive and their handling of the outbreak. “I don’t think there was any more they could have done. And there’s an Irish phrase that says “Níl aon dul as” – there’s no way out of this – except following the advice the HSE gave us.”
He said his feeling was that parents were glad the school had re-opened and were generally positive about how the outbreak had been handled.
“I mean we would wish this situation hadn’t visited the school, but it has, and the only way of dealing with it is the way that we have dealt with it under the direction of the HSE.”
He admitted they were all concerned and there was a “a natural concern in the wider community” that the source of infection had not been identified.
Helen Ruane, from Blackrock, whose two children attend the school, said her little girl, Beth, had asked her mother “if she was going to die”.
“My little fellow (Daniel) was a bit concerned as well, but I just reassure them and tell them that everything is going to be OK and you can’t die and that there are millions of people, 50 million people a year in America get TB, there’s no big deal, they handle it.”
She said some children were scared and some had been ostracised and people should have compassion.
“It is human nature, I do understand and you have to be respectful of people if they are over-cautious, but I’d just get yourself informed before you say “no” to a parent because it’s very hurtful and very upsetting and everyone’s upset enough without being ostracised on top of it,” Ms Ruane said.
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