Despite recent refrains of “We believe that the school environment is still, in relative terms, a safe environment for children” from senior health officials, there are increasing numbers of under-12s queueing at testing centres.
iven the fact vaccines have yet to be administered to that demographic, I’ve felt – for some time – that my kids are sitting ducks. Much to their annoyance, I’ve become that zero-craic parent, insisting on masks during rare jaunts to the shop and limiting their rigorous social lives outside of school.
Yet who got Covid a little over a week ago? The eight-year-old. She hadn’t been anywhere for the prior week, apart from school…
It didn’t come as a complete surprise; there were newly confirmed cases in her class. Out of caution, courtesy, and an abundance of discretion, the school principal emailed to inform us as such – despite being requested by the Department of Education “not to share any information with parents” regarding Covid cases, citing data protection concerns.
If it weren’t for that pivotal email from our principal, we wouldn’t have bothered purchasing antigen tests, especially given the price of them.
The subsequent three mornings, we dutifully probed noses (much like they do in the UK daily before school – though they do it without paying €7 a pop).
On the third day, Lara’s antigen was positive.
Her lone symptom was a slightly runny nose.
The school was notified and our GP referred us for a PCR test for that afternoon; a great turnaround given that attempts to book an appointment online left us with one option for Dublin Airport over 24 hours later.
BALTIC IN BALALLY
“Look at all the kids, Mummy.” Indeed, there were LOTS of children lining up outside IMI Balally last week, in the cold.
There was no covert Santa Experience awaiting inside, however, just a brigade of overworked yet sympathetic healthcare workers, armed with swabs and smiling eyes.
Exactly 24 hours later, I got a text saying her PCR was positive and that she must isolate in her room for the next 10 days. Obviously, that wasn’t a goer. Living in a teeny terrace aside, could you tell your eight-year-old she has the thing that everyone has been banging on about for almost two years and then banish her to her bedroom, like Rapunzel, for almost two weeks?
The only option for us is bunker down collectively – for what could potentially be a rather long time. As an unvaccinated close contact, our five-year-old must stay at home and take two PCRs; one the day after her sister’s result, and another seven days later. If that second result comes back positive, we’re indoors hopping off each other for another 10 days.
CAN SCHOOLS STAY OPEN?
Having spoken at length with our school principal, she is steadfast in her approach to maintaining the health measures currently in place and firmly believes everyone wants schools to remain open. In order for that to happen, there should be an increased supply of CO2 monitors, (our school got sent two), alongside the use of in-class HEPA air filters. This would minimise the joys of trying to learn with the windows and doors flung open in freezing conditions.
Thankfully, as of today, a new regime on testing classroom contacts is getting under way – with a ‘voluntary’ option for antigen testing for those in the ‘pod’ of a confirmed case.
Unfortunately, the messaging could be deemed unclear. For example, according to the Department of Education’s November 25 correspondence, “It is not necessary for parents to share information with the school about whether they have requested antigen tests and undertaken negative tests. Children who are well should continue to come to school whether they participate in antigen testing or not. The decision to do antigen testing with your child is completely up to parents and guardians and will have no impact on your child’s education or experience in school.”
If this logic had been applied in Lara’s case, she would have been headbanging around school infecting bodies willy-nilly unbeknownst to anyone. I felt it my personal responsibility to let other parents in the class know via WhatsApp. What if I had chosen not to?
We’re part of a small school in the leafy suburbs, with teachers who can drop off school work to our door with a cheeky bag of treats.
There are others in similar positions who don’t have that luxury. As with previous stints of isolation over the last 20 months, our best-laid plans of ‘daily routines’ have fallen in favour of Netflix, takeaways, and intensive bouts of Minecraft.
As we await the results of the youngest’s second PCR, we seem perennially destined to be trying to balance work while juggling at-home learning, plus endless requests to administer teeny clothes onto LOL dolls.
Haggling with the husband for the utility/‘office’ is standard – only, this time, it’s set to a backdrop of Lara’s now continuous coughing. Our new alarm clock.