Furniture, books and hand sanitiser: The new Cork school which opened during a pandemic

Owenabue Educate Together National School opened its doors for the first time this week to 10 junior infant students
Furniture, books and hand sanitiser: The new Cork school which opened during a pandemic

Getting ready for the opening of the Owenabue Educate Together School in Carrigaline, Cork, were school principal Trina Golden. and teacher Michelle Collins. Picture Dan Linehan

Opening a new school in a normal year requires an exceptional amount of planning

This year, there is even more care and attention required.

Trina Golden is the principal of Owenabue Educate Together National School, which opened its doors for the first time this week to ten junior infant students. It is one of five new schools the patron body opened across the country this week.

Appointed principal in May, there was a short-turnaround time to get the school opened by September.

“As you can imagine when you are given the role in May and there’s only three months to opening, it's a very, very busy time,” she told the Irish Examiner.

“Everything has to happen quite quickly because, at that point, you still don't have any accommodation, or, well, anything at all, really. So the first job is the accommodation because that's what the parents are most interested in. Where the school will be based if it will suit their commute." 

Michelle Collins, school principal Trina Golden, deputy principal Melanie Kavanagh and Sinead O’Sullivan, student support. File picture: Dan Linehan
Michelle Collins, school principal Trina Golden, deputy principal Melanie Kavanagh and Sinead O’Sullivan, student support. File picture: Dan Linehan

The school secured accommodation at the Carrigaline Lions Club in mid-June. 

“And that’s when you start literally from scratch, buying everything you need for a school, from furniture to books to resources," Ms Golden said. 

"This year obviously the addition to that is all of the Covid regulations; hand sanitizer stations and everything that goes along with that. On the admin side of it, you've all the policy developments and, again with Covid, there's obviously been an addition of a lot of required policies for that. And then you have to find pupils.

"By the time the department actually announce where the school is going to be, most parents have made their decision at that point by May, June of the year before, so finding pupils in the first year can be a bit of a struggle. We’ve been lucky enough, we have a nice number of 10.

Michelle Collins, Sinead O’Sullivan, Melanie Kavanagh, and principal Trina Golden. File picture: Dan Linehan
Michelle Collins, Sinead O’Sullivan, Melanie Kavanagh, and principal Trina Golden. File picture: Dan Linehan

“It's small enough that in the current climate, it gives us a bit more flexibility with Covid because you're not looking at trying to squeeze 30 kids in a classroom that's too small, and maintaining pods and so on. So it takes the pressure off with that.” 

The summer has been a particularly busy and stressful one for principals, Ms Golden said.

"I think it's very important that everyone is very aware of the well being side of things for staff and leaders at the moment, because they're going into the start of the year, probably fairly close to burnout. And which makes things very challenging then because that's usually when you're going back refreshed and ready to go. So I think it's important that everyone's just that bit more patience with each other.

“We wouldn't have the same challenges that a very large school would have, we don't need to have staggered start and finish times. And I think it gives the parents a little bit of reassurance. Well, you know, there's only going to be 10 or their families involved this year." 

While its number is small now, the school is expected to grow to between 400 and 450 students. 

Owenabue Educate Together National School will be housed at Carrigaline Lions Youth Centre for its first year where preparations were underway ahead of opening on Wednesday, September 2.
Owenabue Educate Together National School will be housed at Carrigaline Lions Youth Centre for its first year where preparations were underway ahead of opening on Wednesday, September 2.

"That will obviously be eight or more years down the line, but it will be a large school," Ms Golden said. 

"There's a lot of demand in Carrigaline and in Cork in general for Educate Together. So the schools that are announced tend to be quite big. And it's such a growing and bustling population. There's a lot of houses going in, so I think the demand for school places is quite high."

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