As we have completed the longest term of over 15 weeks we would like to say a special thanks to our wider school family.
Our parent body has been incredibly supportive of all of our efforts over the last four months. They have minimised visits and encouraged students to follow our Covid regulations. On several occasions they have expressed their support and have offered assistance continuously.
We are now within the “seven days of Christmas” where an infection could force a person to be in isolation for Christmas Day so we are releasing some classes early. It will allow us to concentrate on some of the exam classes where practical work may have fallen behind because of Covid. Classes continue for exam classes until Wed which is our official closing day.
We have struggled to provide teachers this year. We grew in student numbers by almost 70 extra students at a time when there was a teacher shortage. Despite Covid, sickness, teacher shortage, maternity leaves, storms and family emergencies we did not have to leave any class at home and all classes were covered since we returned in August. We still have some posts advertised which are subject specific and will continue to try to acquire the required person.
Our staff have been amazing in making sure that the same level of teaching and learning and care was provided throughout this time. Teachers have taken extra classes and supervision and staff generally have contributed hours in helping to combat the natural anxiety that Covid has caused among our students.
Although we have had minimal close contacts of Covid Athy College has not been without tragedy. Sadly some staff members have experienced in their families the ultimate pain that Covid can bring and some have experiences of Covid ICU and other the loss of a family member to Covid. Similarly among our parent families the harshest realities of Covid have been felt. We are all one school family and we feel each other's pain.
Within the college we have installed CO2 monitors and are looking to provide Hepa air filters in the coming year. We have followed our Covid procedures while still trying to provide the sports and extracurricular activities that students need for their mental health. We have been able to provide some lunchtime food and hope to be able to improve that provision in the new year. We have provided outside shelters to allow dining outside.
I repeat our staff has been amazing. At a time when the teaching profession is getting unfairly criticised in the media our frontline staff have not shirked from their commitment . I, and the parent body owe a huge debt of thanks to the staff who turned up for work despite having the same family concerns regarding Covid as everyone else - many of whom had the option of working from home. Our staff work in a close community of over 600 people every day. We are blessed to have such a committed staff.
My sincere thanks to Deputy Principal Mr. Maguire, the Board of Management and the management team within the school for supporting and administering the school. Mr Maguire, in particular, has made sure on a day to day basis that all classes are covered and that the school runs efficiently.
At the end of 2021 we have also completed our enrolment for 2022 and have had to increase the number of places offered to 160. This will increase our overall student population by 90 extra students. Thankfully we have taken possession of three additional classrooms with 2 more due in the new year.
We continue to be a designated School of Distinction by Trinity College, we are Ireland's first Google Reference School and have several other accolades (Well Read School, etc) of national and international significance. Our greatest achievement is that we are chosen by the largest section of our community ever as the school of first choice because of our academic achievement and caring, inclusive attitude.
Thank you parents, teachers, students and the community of Athy.
Happy Christmas to all