Goodbye to 2019 – 2020

Hello everyone and welcome to my final message of this school year,

Imagine that we have reached the end of term; tomorrow, Thursday, is the last day of this school year. I hope you will mark it in some way with your children, if only to celebrate the official end of home-schooling.

Before I began to write this, by way of warming up (!), I went back and read all the emails I’ve sent since March. It was interesting to see the progression from then until now. To be honest, in the beginning I thought that we would be back in school by this stage; now I’m just relieved and grateful that the plan is to have us all back in school for September.

This has undoubtedly been the strangest year for all of us. We’ve had to come to terms with new ways of working, new ways of learning, new ways of communicating – a whole new way of life.  We’ve learned the language of lockdown – words like cocooning, remote learning, zooming and social distancing have become commonplace for us. In our school community, pupils, parents and teachers have had to quickly adapt and learn to manage home-schooling. And that brings me to the first thing I need to say which is, thank you to every pupil and parent who worked alongside their teachers for the last 3 months. You really did great despite all the odds. Thank you to those of you who communicated with the teachers on a regular basis and to those who sent in work. Thank you to the many of you who responded to my emails. Thank you to the people I met here and there, who were so positive and supportive. I also have to acknowledge the work of the teachers and say thank you to them.  When the school closed back in March, our staff stepped into a kind of parallel universe. But with lots of discussion and planning, we got into a different kind of working pattern and, to be fair, we have all learned new skills along the way.

Alongside all of this has been the build. It was great to see it starting in February, awful to see it stopping during the lockdown and a relief to see it resume in May. Yesterday I was thrilled when actual walls started to appear and,  finally, rooms are beginning to take shape in the new part of the building. This week, Caroline and I were able to stand in, what will be, our new offices – in fairness it was raining down on us but we weren’t complaining – we may not have a roof but we have hope!

At the moment we have no WiFi in the school and the phone isn’t working which is why we are in and out all the time. We hadn’t water either for quite some time. Add to that the rooms that were emptied into other rooms, the rooms that no longer exist, the wires that are everywhere and a nice thick coating of dust to round it all off and you get a picture of what the school is like right now. As part of our tick lists for the end of year, I asked teachers to sort their rooms – I’m surprised they didn’t just laugh in my face!


This evening 6th class is having a Zoom graduation – now that’s a first – and we are saying goodbye to Hannah, Ella, Abi and Millie, Emma, Nadia, Róisín Mc and Róisín G, Kate, Áoibhe, Jadine, Abigail, Mya, Ruby-Mai, Katie, Emily, Pierce, Kaelin, Kyle, Noah, Oisín, Josh, Jason, Brían, Mark, Jakub, Ultan, Ciarán, David, Jenson and Rhionn. I think you would all agree that, although every child missed out this year, the loss has been greatest for the boys and girls in Sixth. I don’t know how we can ever make it up to them but I know that Ruth has worked hard to make tonight special. I’m looking forward to it although I am truly sad to see them leave without actually seeing them leave, if you see what I mean. It will be an emotional evening.



We are also saying goodbye to the Adigwe, Chen, English, Gannon, Grier, Hollyman, Lynch, McGourty, Mulvey,  Nolan (Jadine), O’Brien-Ploshchynskaya, O’Connor and O’Reilly families. It’s very strange when children move into secondary school and the link with the primary school is broken. Some of the families that I’ve listed have had children in the school for fifteen years – between oldest and youngest. Some have a connection that goes back even further in that they, themselves, are past pupils. Pupils and families move on but the school is always there and every child (and their family) who attends the school remains part of it. That’s why I love our corridor with all the photographs. It demonstrates so clearly that, although children may have left, may be grown up, may be on the other side of the world, they remain part of the story of our school.

As I write this email, I have many unanswered questions about what September will bring. This week, the Department of Education is supposed to be publishing a roadmap for schools with clear guidelines as to what we need to do to prepare to welcome all pupils back in September. Now I know it’s the summer holidays and I also know that, at the start of the email, I said that this would be my last one of this school year, and it is. But the next school year starts next week and, as soon as I get information with regard to getting back to school I will be back in touch with you. For the return to school to succeed, we need to continue to work together, just as we have over the last months. We will all have responsibilities in terms of the health, safety and wellbeing of the children, and of each other, that will have to be met. It will be well worth it.

Please continue to teach your children about sanitising and about social distancing. Please keep to the guidelines. I’m sure that you, like me, are watching the news and seeing second waves of Covid emerging in some countries. We need to make sure that this does not become our story. I believe that there will never be a total lockdown again, as there was in March. I think that the government will be more likely to do what they are doing in Germany at the moment; they will lockdown a region where there is an outbreak. If that’s true, it starts here in Drumshanbo with each and every one of us. If we want our creches, preschools, primary school and vocational school to be fully up and running in September – and we do – then it really is in our own hands – our very clean hands!

Keep safe and well over the summer. Encourage the children to be active and out of doors but to be safe. Wear bicycle helmets. Swim only when it is supervised and safe. Watch the roads.

My very best wishes to every child and every parent. I honestly can’t wait to see you all in – well actually although I’ve been saying September in this and many other emails, the fact of the matter is we are opening in – August. School reopens to all pupils on Monday, August 31st. I look forward to welcoming you back.

My final word is to ask each and every one of you to keep the Campbell family in your thoughts and prayers today and every day.

Rath Dé oraibh go léir.

Máirín O’Keeffe

And finally – what is your main memory of Lockdown?

When we each come to tell our individual memories of the last few months, I’d say there will be some very interesting stories. Here is a quick reminder of one of my favourites:

Happy holidays everyone.