The Department of Education decided to close schools in several counties over the last two days due to the threat posed by Storm Barra.
We asked readers for their views on whether the decision was justified and how it affected them.
This is an edited selection of your responses.
‘Another example of the contempt that this Government treats parents with’
The late-night decision by the Department of Education to close schools in Dublin today is just another example of the contempt that this Government treats parents with. Much like the last-minute mask decision fiasco the Government takes no consideration of parents ability to choose what might be best for their children or give parents time to deal with the fallout from the decisions. I would hope that in future they could consider parents in their late-night decision making.
‘Does the Department of Education have any cop-on at all?’
A ham-fisted, behind-covering, one-size-fits-all decision that has greatly inconvenienced parents and deprived children of yet another day’s valuable learning. It was nothing more than a very windy day in south central Dublin on Tuesday. It was even less inclement on Wednesday. Does the Department of Education have any cop-on at all? Why not delegate the decision to school principals. They are on the ground and best placed to make a call on local conditions. What will prompt the next enforced closure? The wrong type of wind?
‘This is just not acceptable’
In Galway city, Tuesday was a bit breezy; Wednesday was calm and the sun was shining. There is absolutely no reason why schools in Galway city should have closed. We will have a long winter, and negative implications on our children’s education, if schools close every time there is an orange weather alert. We are both trying to work from home whilst our children are home from school, and the school did not roll out any online learning or send home any materials for the children to work on. This is just not acceptable, or sustainable long-term.
‘My exams were postponed’
I am a third-year student in NUI Galway doing exams. They were planned to be on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday but due to the college closure the Tuesday and Wednesday exams were postponed to Saturday and Sunday. This creates a very stressful period as they have been placed in the middle of other exams. I now have four exams in a row from Friday to Monday, also with exams on the following Wednesday and Thursday. Six exams in seven days is not ideal. Both Tuesday and Wednesday did not display any strong winds that would prevent such exams taking place. This is not the type of pressure my course colleagues and I want in the run up to Christmas.
‘I’ve no back-up. The pandemic has taken away all my unpaid supports’
I’m a separated mother of two small children working a four-day week. Working from home (WFH) has its benefits and generally I work a hybrid model mostly. However, when the preschools & schools are closed and I’ve no back-up, I’m actually parenting from work at my kitchen table rather than working from home. And I have no back-up. The pandemic has taken away all my unpaid supports – mainly my elderly parents – and the housing crisis, resulting in ever increasing rents, keeps pushing me further and further away from the city where my friends and family live. I do not live long enough in one place to make lasting friendships with neighbours that I could approach for help. My childminder is wonderful, but I pay her €70/full day when I earn €95 net. I borrow to work the school summer holidays, I cannot afford any unplanned or unexpected curveballs like these last two days of red weather alerts and school closures. And with end-of-year deadlines, calling in sick is not an option. My workload would only be waiting for my return. Furthermore, I worry about the lasting developmental damage this frequent ‘WFH’ is forcing upon my young children. Both have been sick a lot lately and I cannot send them to school with even a snivel anymore. When they are sick I can no longer take time off to mind them because I am now able to ‘WFH’. So the frequency of this scenario of me at the kitchen table on the laptop ignoring them has increased.
When there are two parents, they can help one another, give each other a break. I on the other hand, cannot even go to the shop for milk without packing us all out the door! Lets not forget that we’ve had long runs of school closures in the very recent past in this pandemic. And, in isolation these two days of red weather alerts and school closures would be manageable. However, within the context of this pandemic, a housing crisis and only the beginning of a long winter, it feels like the last straw.
‘At 11pm we got the email the creche would close’
I was okay and scheduled all meetings to next day as I have toddler at home and it was difficult to work with him around. On Tuesday, weather was not bad in Dublin 16 and I thought the decision to close schools and crèches were uncalled for. They should have access the severity and took the decision only on affected areas and not generalised the decision. We got an email from the creche that on Wednesday it would be be open but at 11pm at night got the email that it was closed due to Government decision. Weather was not bad at all, as I have seen much worse weather than these two days. Has the crèche refunded us two days’ fees?
We have already had enough stress due to Covid-19.
‘Probably the right decision at the time’
In our area of east Cork, the storm, thankfully, didn’t hit us as hard as other parts of the county or other counties. The decision to close the schools for the second day proved to be unnecessary in our part of the county, but it was probably the right decision at the time, and was no doubt influenced by poorer conditions in the west of the county. The decision was made in good time, 5.30pm and it was flagged for a few hours before the official decision was made.
There was strong wind here for a couple of days. Nothing to worry about, yet two children home from school. Complete nonsense. Children packed into Mcdonald’s yesterday, and packed into indoor play centre today. It was NOT dangerous to go out. Stupid decision.
I’m astounded at why the schools were closed when they have had ample opportunity over the past two years to operate online. It reinforces that those accountable for education in our country are not of a proactive or progressive mindset and take the easy option. Very disappointing.
‘Conditions were not dangerous’
I am at a loss to understand why the schools in Dublin were closed. Conditions were not dangerous, it was indeed cold, wet and miserable, but it was also the same in December when I went to school 35 years ago. However, we just went to school and got on with it. Children have missed more school over the past two years due to the pandemic, on top of already the ridiculous amount of holidays for teachers, course days, etc. Of course, the decision to close schools was the one decision over the past number of years that the teacher unions accepted without question. I fear for the education of our children and their mental health.
I had not been advised by the preschool so on Tuesday I turned up to it and realised it was closed. I had hectic days trying to do basic things as I live alone with a toddler. The school closures have disrupted my days but finally it’s over.
‘These decisions should be taken lightly’
The weather didn’t seem severe enough to justify the closure, in Dublin at least. Children have missed some much school time with Covid closures that these decisions should not be taken lightly. Additionally, most working parents had to take two days’ annual leave or lose two days’ pay to mind their kids at short notice. Obviously this isn’t the case in the Department of Education but decision-makers should be mindful of the impact on private sector workers.
‘I don’t get this need to blame schools for the weather’
I would not have sent my kids on Wednesday even if the Government had not closed schools. The weather warning finished at 7am. We leave the house at that time so I had already decided to do the safest thing for my children and work from home. I don’t get this need to blame schools for the weather or the Government and I’m happy to blame the Government for a lot. I’m not sure sure I’d want to be a principal having to deal with that last night, but as a parent kids’ safety overrides my inconvenience. Even if in your particular area it seemed fine we all travel to work think how much more dangerous it would have been with school traffic and fallen branches.
‘Is this to be the new norm?’
Ireland is an island. Consequently, the weather is regularly wet and windy. In Bray today it is merely breezy and a status yellow warning has been applied. But somehow the local environs are deemed unsafe for school commutes. If navigating your way past fallen leaves and the occasional puddle is challenging, then the decision to close schools for a second day was indeed a wise one. If on the other hand, you consider the inclement weather to be a regular feature of life in this country, then the school closures are perplexing to say the least. Is this to be the new norm – school closures on the basis of oft-cited, but rarely challenged, health and safety concerns?
‘We don’t have a family to help in Ireland’
In Dún Laoghaire, Dublin, the storm was mild, with only leaves and bins being affected. My son, that is two years old, goes to a creche that closed Tuesday and Wednesday, with such short notice that I couldn’t make any arrangements. We don’t have a family to help in Ireland. This put massive stress over my partner and me to take the day off on Tuesday, move meetings and customers to the following days, only to be warned at 11pm on Tuesday that Wednesday would also have the creche closed. I found it unfair as I can see that the storm is not affecting my region, and I pay a hefty amount to the creche to help me take care of him so we can work. Moreover, it was clear in the note that the orange warning was only up to 7 am, with the first employees arriving close to 8.30am, they could definitely work on Wednesday. I’m mad and just hoping they can open on Thursday/Friday without any new surprise.