Schools asked to
cut holidays to make up for lost days
School principals around the county have been asked to consider cutting their holidays short to make up for days lost because of the disruption over the last month caused by the Arctic conditions.
The Department of Education has suggested schools could look at the possibility of returning early after Christmas or shortening the February mid-term break or the Easter holidays.
Some schools have been closed for up to 12 to 15 days already and may now be forced to remain shut until after the Christmas break because of the weather conditions which are still highly unpredictable.
Many schools did not open this week and primary school principals said it could have been as high one in four national schools. The worst affected in the county are pupils living in rural areas, who have to travel on secondary and minor roads, which are not being gritted.
However schools in some of the main urban areas such as Letterkenny, Donegal Town, Ballyshannon and Donegal Town have already lost a considerable number of days or are operating on shorter hours to allow the early morning conditions to thaw.
The school bus service was also depleted as many of the vehicles were unable to operate on their normal routes or schedules.
As the Arctic weather continued into a fourth week, education authorities were becoming increasingly concerned about the impact on pupils, particularly leaving and junior certificate classes.
There is a requirement on schools to make all reasonable efforts to make up time lost due to unforeseen circumstances, however the extent of the closure in some areas makes it impossible for all days to be restored within the limits of the standardised school year.
But in contacts with school managers earlier this week, it was suggested that individual schools could be given flexibility to change the holiday periods this year.
Gerard McGeehan of the INTO in Donegal told this newspaper, "It is up to both the Department of Education and the Union to give clarification as to what exactly is being suggested.
"I an tired of reading ‘wishy washy' statements in the national media suggesting this, that and the other - let us know what is wanted.
"This cannot be left up to the individual schools to make their own decisions - let them come straight out and tell us what is required and of course we will do our best to do it.
"To date, I have received no contact from the Department - there are none of us enjoying this situation; it is totally disruptive."
Jimmy Keogh, principal of Colaiste Colmchille in Ballyshannon said, "It remains to be seen how this can be worked out - parents and teachers may have made prior arrangements and this will have to be taken into account.
"I would be very concerned about the loss of tuition time especially for exam classes but nobody really wants this situation - it is totally disruptive.
"Normality is the key to running a school well and conditions at the moment are far from normal.
"On a personal basis I have heard nothing from the Department and I would welcome clarification as to what exactly they are looking for."