In the last couple of weeks, Ireland has made its traditional move from mild autumnal weather to a full-on winter freeze.
It is part and parcel of being Irish, ordinarily matched by a collective move indoors and a ratcheting up of the thermostat.
Not in Irish schools, however, where Arctic temperatures have become the standard over the past 10 days as windows are kept open to ventilate against Covid-19.
Over the past three days, the Irish Examiner has been inundated with stories of freezing cold classrooms and carbon dioxide monitors registering 10C and lower — from parents, from teachers, and from students.
The legal minimum temperature an employee can be made to work a sedentary job in Ireland is 17.5C. That schools are operating at such low temperatures seems counterproductive at best, if not illegal.
Deborah Knott is a special needs assistant (SNA) from north Dublin but working at St Malachy’s primary school in Dundalk.
“Today was one of the coldest days we’ve had,” she says. “My day started welcoming kids at the gate from 8.45am until 9.05am. Despite a lot of communication about the need to wrap up, lots of children are arriving without coats.”
“Not that it matters especially because even with coats on, the classrooms are too cold.”
Deborah says that the State-provided CO2 monitors, the only real mitigation measure the Government has put in place in schools, “go red if we even pull the blinds down over the windows when it’s too bright”.
A problem routinely cited by those who sent in their stories is widespread school regulations stating that jackets are not allowed to be worn inside the classroom unless, in certain cases, they bear the school crest. For Deborah, it’s not that simple, however.
The kids don’t want to take their coats off and we don’t want to ask them to,