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Kids learn to live with new rules as they enjoy first day at school

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Aleksandr Novickis gives his new teacher Mrs Sarah
Scott flowers at Citywest and Saggart Community National School

Aleksandr Novickis gives his new teacher Mrs Sarah Scott flowers at Citywest and Saggart Community National School

Aleksandr Novickis gives his new teacher Mrs Sarah Scott flowers at Citywest and Saggart Community National School

From canteens turned into classrooms, to teachers in personal protective equipment, students are returning to schools which are very different to the ones they left.

Despite some nerves and anxiety, feedback from parents and pupils has been mostly positive.

At Citywest and Saggart Community National School in Dublin, careful planning allowed parents to get that memorable first-day experience with their junior infants.

Principal Michael Byrne said the first day "couldn't have gone better" as they welcomed 54 beginners.

"It was actually surprising how well they coped. They came in the door and sanitised their hands and it was no problem to them at all," he said.

"We allowed one adult in with them in groups of six. As this is the first day of school, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we didn't want anyone to miss out on that.

"Our building is new, so we've got nice, spacious classrooms where we can break them into smaller pods. We know there are schools who aren't as lucky."

Mr Byrne said that wearing PPE will take "some getting used to".

"I had my mask on at 8.45am to greet people and just sat down at my desk at 12pm to take it off.

"The staff understand we need to keep ourselves and the children safe."

In Co Kilkenny, Shane Hallahan, principal of the Presentation Secondary School, welcomed first year students on Tuesday.

The sixth-year leaders yesterday met with the students to help them settle into their new surroundings. The principal said "it's all hands on deck" as they adapt to the new normal.

"It's strange with the masks, but you can still tell that the kids are smiling behind them," Mr Hallahan said.

Cocooning

They usually have five classes of first years, but increased this to six to limit the numbers in each class. The number of children enrolling hasn't been affected by Covid-19, but Mr Hallahan said there are fewer transition-year students arriving from overseas.

"Every year we have a number of students that come from Spain, Germany and Austria in transition year and some of them have fallen back. They're cocooning for 14 days and will then hopefully be starting school," he said.

While he knows there may be further challenges ahead, Mr Hallahan praised his "brilliant" staff and said everyone is happy to be back meeting students face-to-face.

Meanwhile, 100 pupils at Dún Laoghaire Educate Together School feared they would have no school to go to in September after works on a temporary site fell through. They are due to return on September 14.

The Department of Education said issues with the tendering process led to delays, but they are confident works will be completed by mid-September.