Kerry school with high Covid rate ordered to stay open

Kerry school with high Covid rate ordered to stay open

With seven confirmed cases among 500 pupils, the school has seen an incidence rate equal to around 1,400 per 100,000.

The Department of Education has ordered a school in Kerry with one of the highest ever Covid-19 incidence rates to stay open.

Tarbert Comprehensive School principal Richard Prendiville had tried to shut it down out of fear for the safety of pupils and staff.

But he later told parents he had been “overruled” by the department and “instructed to stay open”.

This is despite the fact that, with seven confirmed cases among 500 pupils, it has seen an incidence rate equal to around 1,400 per 100,000.

Mr Prendiville told parents of the north Kerry school on Monday it was with “great disappointment” he had decided to close the school that evening at 6.30pm.

“This decision was not made lightly and is based on my concern with regard to the need to protect the entire school community from Covid -19,” he said.

He also highlighted “a failure by some to inform the school that members of their families had tested Covid positive".

But today, at 4pm, he issued another letter, saying: “The Department of Education has contacted me and expressed a difference of opinion.

“The Department believes affected students should remain off school as opposed to a decision to close the school entirely.

“Therefore the (department) has overruled the decision to close and instructed me to reopen.

“Naturally I have to comply with their instruction.“

He also said the decision to close “was made based on autonomy granted to the school to make such decisions.”

He pointed out there were seven confirmed Covid-19 cases among pupils since October 14.

Michael Foley, Cathaoirleach of the Listowel Municipal District, told the Irish Examiner: “My daughter Anna goes to the school and we got the letters.

“The principal made the right decision.

The school should be closed and although a lot of parents have mixed views about this, the overall feeling is one of support for the principal.

“If you work it out, seven cases reported in a cohort of about 500 pupils, that equates to an incidence rate of 1400 per 100,000.

“That’s off the scale in terms of rates anywhere else in the country as far as I can tell.”

A Department of Education spokesperson said: “The Department does not comment on individual cases.

“The current advice to school principals is to follow public health advice.

“This practice ensures no principal is burdened with the responsibility of making a public health decision.

“When a positive case arises in a school community, the local Public Health team will work with the school and undertake a Public Health Risk Assessment (PHRA).

"Once the PHRA is complete the Department of Public Health will then advise the school of the public health instructions which then should be followed by the school.”

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