| 2.8°C Dublin

Parents face havoc as schoo ls forced into big shutdown

SCHOOLS across the country could be closed for the rest of the week amid plummeting temperatures.

Dozens of schools have listed themselves as closed on the schooldays.ie website due to the worsening weather conditions.

Schools closed today included Colaiste Eanna, in Ballyroan; Our Lady Queen of Apostles, in Clondalkin; St Paul's, in Ratoath; and St Finian's CC in Swords.

Hundreds of primary and post-primary schools didn't open yesterday because of the hazardous conditions. And, with no let-up in the weather expected for several days, extended school closures are on the cards in many areas.

Schools take decisions to close on health and safety grounds and/or because of travel difficulties encountered by pupils and staff.

Worse

The Department of Education will not be instructing any schools to close during the Big Freeze -- and each board of management is to make its own decision.

A department spokesperson says that it will not be imposing a blanket closure on all schools -- like last January -- since weather conditions vary throughout the country.

"In relation to the opening of schools this week against the backdrop of bad weather conditions, the department wishes to clarify that at present it is a matter for individual boards of management to decide whether local circumstances warrant the closure of the school.

"The weather got a lot worse last year, and the minister closed the schools for four days, but then the weather got a lot better and schools were still off."

She said the department would not be recording the number of schools closing during the cold snap, because schools don't have to report to the department.

"Schools are empowered to make such decisions locally, without notifying the department in advance."

And Bus Eireann will be making decisions locally based on its knowledge and assessment of prevailing conditions.

Paul Rowe, CEO of Educate Together, said boards of management in each school would make their decision by consulting county council's and transport companies.

"The boards of management will be co-ordinating with local authorities and various transport authorities." He warned: "It's important to be mindful that if a school closes, it has a big effect on the activity of the local economy and schools try to stay open as much as possible.

Parents

"The minister issued a statement last year when he had no power to do so. We're simply stating to our schools that the board of management of the school is the only legal body entitled to take a decision based on the local circumstances at a particular time."

A spokesperson for the National Parents Council Post Primary said parents will have to make alternative arrangements for child minding at short notice if their child's school closes.

"It's very much dependent on whether the snow is bad or not. For parents going to work and dropping their kids off, you just have to make alternative arrangements and go to anyone who can help."

hnews@herald.ie


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