‘It is surreal to look back and reflect on our school journey’

By Maurice Garvey

ON MARCH 12 former Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced, in Washington, that Irish schools and colleges were to close in response to Covid-19.

It was an unprecedented situation for schools, who had to implement an operational online remote facility to keep connected with students, teachers and parents.

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Principal Marie-Therese Kilmartin

Some secondary schools like Coláiste Bríde in Clondalkin, were already well equipped to handle the challenge, and according to Principal Marie-Therese Kilmartin, they were “back open for business” by March 13.

“It is surreal to look back now and reflect on our school journey through the last few months,” said Ms Gilmartin.

“By the following morning, Coláiste Bríde was back open for business as usual but in a different mode or as I often called it after that #CBOnline. A huge credit to all our students, staff and parents for adapting so well and making the continuation of online schooling a priority.”

Ms Gilmartin said the school “kept going as usual”, not only with classes but the provision of school meals for families, organised special care packages for students with special educational needs, and sought donations of laptops for students without devices.

“Our TY students were finalists in the Young Social Innovator National competition and one of our students was a runner up in a national enterprise competition.”

Everybody chipped in to create published weekly newsletters, videos, Junior Cycle assessments at school level and calculated grades for Leaving Cert students.

This week as the school closes for a few weeks rest in July, they sent an open letter to students and parents thanking them for all their support and engagement during coronavirus.

It says the focus from the beginning was on communication, wellbeing and learning and teaching. 

“I hope that this focus was clear for you all through our newsletters, phone calls, assemblies, video messages, twitter, website, text messages, questionnaires, surveys and online meetings,” said Ms Gilmartin.

“We listened, took feedback on board and adapted as we went forward. It was great to see so many students engage, support each other, take on leadership roles, develop materials for fellow students, create videos, power-points to share and become more familiar with the technology of teams.

“Everyone was learning together in a strange environment, doing their best perhaps with limited credit, shared devices at home, having to mind others, help out at home as their parents were working away etc.”

She also thanked the “unseen heroes of the school” the Parents’ Council, Board of Management and the Presentation Sisters.

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