No worries over masks as Sonas Special Junior School prepares to shine for students over the coming year

No worries over masks as Sonas Special Junior School prepares to shine for students over the coming year
Karen McFall, SNA, (left) and Maureen O'Sullivan, SNA, measuring the school yard for social distancing in preparation for opening at Sonas Special Junior Primary School, Carrigaline, Co. Cork.Picture: Denis Minihane.

Bairbre Doyle, principal of Sonas Special Junior School, had been a bit nervous about what students would make of teachers in their masks. 

All staff will be wearing them at the early intervention school for children with autism in Carrigaline, Cork, that re-opened for the new term this week. 

Disappointed that they couldn't hold a traditional graduation ceremony for the 22 children moving on from the school due to lockdown restrictions, the school decided to celebrate a little differently. 

“Last Monday, each of the 22 children came in individually and they had a 20-minute meeting with us, socially distanced," Ms Doyle explained. "They were just delighted to see things that were familiar to them.

“But the biggest surprise to us was that none of the children acted adversely towards the masks. They didn’t pay them much heed at all. 

"That was a big revolution and we were really delighted with that because that is how we are hoping everybody will be when they are back.”

There will be changes to how the school operates, Ms Doyle added. "But teaching and learning will stay the same. 

“We’ve done all the bits that we’ve had to do and really, we’re just trying to mind everybody. We’re trying to reassure as well. Everyone is anxious, I think the key is keeping it simple, doing it right and then building on that. 

“We’ve been so lucky with a fantastic parents’ body over the years so we do have fantastic ‘soft rooms’ for the students but for the time being they are out of bounds. 

"It's the same with ball pools and swimming, and things like that. That will be a loss but it isn’t forever. Everything is under review, as it gets safer we will be reviewing it again. It's more important that the children come back instead of waiting to come back to the way things were exactly. That would be very unrealistic. 

"It's better that they get back and we start working with them and their parents as soon as we can. We’re mad to see them all back, it's just not natural to have an empty school.”

Staffing, resources and clothing have all been reviewed 

The school has had to reconsider a lot of its teaching resources, she added. "Things that really wouldn't be safe to use now. Things like cloth-based resources. Everything we’re using now has to be very cleanable, sterilizable. Even from a physical point of view, the classrooms would have been decluttered. We would have really only left the furniture that we absolutely need in the class.”

The school has also had to make a lot of changes to everyday routines, "things you just didn't have to think about before really", Ms Doyle added. 

“Children are sending in spare sets of their own clothes. In the past we would have had spare sets in our school but we can’t do things like that anymore. A lot of children would come to school by taxi with an escort. We would have been meeting all the escorts over the last week, we’ve had to update our policy. 

"In the past our escorts would have brought the children into the school, but now they can’t. They will have to wait with the children, our staff will have to go out and meet them and bring the children back in. It's all going to be very different, but I suppose what we are doing in terms of teaching and learning will all be the same. 

“We’ve also done an awful lot of things from a housekeeping point of view. We can only have two members of staff in our staff room at any one point, so it required more timetabling than normal. As well as that, people will be bringing in their own flask, we’ll have no kettles or anything like that.”

Another big change for the school will be how they hold meetings. "One of the very important pillars of learning in our school would be the individual education plan," Ms Doyle explained. "Each child would get one at the beginning of the year. We all meet together and do a big brainstorm and set goals for the child.

"It might have nothing to do with the academics at all, it could be something that could present a challenge to a child with autism. It could be life-skills, or do with learning to play, or around social skills. Nothing you could learn in a textbook. 

"It's a really important meeting, but we’ve had to make the decision to hold it online, that’ll be a big change. I’m sure it's nothing we can’t overcome, and it's more important they happen than they are deferred. The children have been out so long, it's just really important we start this from the get-go." 

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.

logo podcast

War of Independence Podcast

A special four-part series hosted by Mick Clifford

Available on
www.irishexaminer.com/podcasts

IE logo

Commemorating 100 years since the War of Independence

IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox

LOTTO RESULTS

Saturday, May 14, 2022

  • 10
  • 11
  • 18
  • 20
  • 35
  • 47
  • 32

Full Lotto draw results »