Open windows and Arctic temperatures endured in Irish classrooms

Open windows and Arctic temperatures endured in Irish classrooms

Special needs assistant Deborah Knott: The State-provided CO2 monitors 'go red if we even pull the blinds down over the windows when it’s too bright'.

In the last couple of weeks, Ireland has made its traditional move from mild autumnal weather to a full-on winter freeze.

It is part and parcel of being Irish, ordinarily matched by a collective move indoors and a ratcheting up of the thermostat.

Not in Irish schools, however, where Arctic temperatures have become the standard over the past 10 days as windows are kept open to ventilate against Covid-19.

Over the past three days, the Irish Examiner has been inundated with stories of freezing cold classrooms and carbon dioxide monitors registering 10C and lower — from parents, from teachers, and from students.

Counterproductive

The legal minimum temperature an employee can be made to work a sedentary job in Ireland is 17.5C. That schools are operating at such low temperatures seems counterproductive at best, if not illegal.

Deborah Knott is a special needs assistant (SNA) from north Dublin but working at St Malachy's primary school in Dundalk.

“Today was one of the coldest days we’ve had,” she says. “My day started welcoming kids at the gate from 8.45am until 9.05am. Despite a lot of communication about the need to wrap up, lots of children are arriving without coats.”

“Not that it matters especially because even with coats on, the classrooms are too cold.”

Deborah says that the State-provided CO2 monitors, the only real mitigation measure the Government has put in place in schools, “go red if we even pull the blinds down over the windows when it’s too bright”.

A problem routinely cited by those who sent in their stories is widespread school regulations stating that jackets are not allowed to be worn inside the classroom unless, in certain cases, they bear the school crest. For Deborah, it’s not that simple, however.

The kids don’t want to take their coats off and we don’t want to ask them to, but you know when they go outside for PE or into the yard they’ll feel the cold even more then.”

Her school has the heating running at all times, yet “it’s going straight out the window”. 

“It’s also hard to see the point when close contacts stopped being collected a couple of months ago,” she says. “Instead, we’ve got all these measures and no guarantee of safety at the end of it.

“Today, between morning, PE, and covering yards, I was outside for two hours or more. It’s not easy to come back to a cold classroom on top of that,” said Deborah.

“I understand why the measures are in place and I feel fully for the children, but it would be good to remember that staff are working as best they can in these conditions.

“What we’re all really dreading is when the worst of the winter hits home later in the school year.”

More in this section

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.