Clear, consistent and concise information for school communities is needed to ensure they remain open and safe, according to the chief executive of the Irish Primary Principals Network.
Padraig Clerkin also criticised the failure of the Department of Education and public health officials to meet with all the partners involved before introducing the new mask-wearing restrictions at short notice.
All the partners involved should have sat around a table “to thrash out” the issues involved, he told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland.
Mr Clerkin urged public health officials to monitor every possible mitigation measure needed to keep school communities safe.
This was a difficult and challenging time for school principals, boards of management, teachers, children and their parents, he added.
Reports from the first day of mask wearing in schools indicated that most parents were very supportive, but schools needed public health guidance on how to deal with parents who did not want their children to wear masks, Mr Clerkin said.
“We all have the same aim – to keep schools as safe as possible. The key thing is to have access to advice on public health.”
It was taking up to 24 hours for principals to get an answer from the support phone lines, Mr Clekin claimed: “That’s not acceptable if we want to keep schools open.”
He said he also looked forward to the sharing of Frequently Asked Questions, which need to be issued as soon as possible. “We want clear, consistent and concise information,” he explained.
The IPPN’s phone lines were up to three and four times busier on Wednesday dealing with calls from principals seeking guidance on dealing with young children and anxious parents.
The focus needed to be on support and minimising tensions, he said.
Mr Clerkin added that he was “really hopeful” that if everyone worked together to ensure that schools were safe then there would be an improvement in the situation.