The first meeting of the school year was well-attended with a good mix of current and new parents, members of the Board of Management and teaching and learning support staff. Apologies in advance for the length and detail of these minutes. There was a lot discussed and it was necessary to accurately reflect these discussions.

1. WELCOME

Yvonne welcomed all to the meeting, especially some new faces, and gave a brief outline to the new parents on what the PTA is and does in WETNS. She confirmed that once their child is enrolled in WETNS every parent automatically becomes a member of the PTA. The PTA Committee and parent class reps will contact parents from time to time if volunteers are needed for PTA-run activities and parents can choose to volunteer or not. Yvonne also reminded parents that if every parent in the school volunteers for just one activity, a maximum of 2-3 hours in the whole school year, all events and fundraising can be adequately covered and achieve its full potential. As this was our first meeting of the new school year and in our new building there were a number of events and ideas outlined and flagged which obviously will be covered in more detail at subsequent meetings.

2. PTA COMMITTEE

Yvonne confirmed the PTA committee are coming to the end of their term and reiterated that candidates are actively being sought to take over the role of Chairperson and Vice Chairperson, and also to either take over the role of Secretary or share the role with Deirdre, our current Secretary. Kev Majewski will continue as Treasurer. Parents considering taking on any of the Committee roles should note that they are not expected to hit the ground running and that the current Committee will be available to “train in” any interested parents. You can approach any member of the Committee or your parent class rep in person or email pta@wicklowetns.com if you are interested in learning more about the roles. The new Committee will usually be appointed at the AGM in October.

3. PARENT CLASS REPS and PARENT CONTACT LISTS

Yvonne outlined the role of the parent class rep and confirmed that some of the current parent class reps have agreed to continue in the role. Also, parent class reps will need to be appointed for each of the new Junior Infants classes. Usually it would be a parent with older children in the school who would take on this role but that does not preclude new JI parents from taking it on if they wish. The current parent class reps are listed below. The current class reps have said they are happy to continue but if another parent or parents in the class would like to have the opportunity to take on the role they are more than welcome.

Class Parent class rep

  • Junior Infants (Kate) Vacancy
  • Junior Infants (Eileen) Vacancy
  • Senior Infants Rebekah Gemmell
  • 1st Class (Brian) Shellaine Capilitan
  • 1st Class (Caoimhe) Vanessa Shipman
  • 2nd Class (Sally) Sue Martin
  • 2nd Class (Leanne) Tara Crawford
  • 3rd Class Vacancy
  • 4th Class Oona Frawley
  • 5th Class Yvonne Garrigan
  • 6th Class (Edele) Maeve Majewski
  • 6th Class (Brian) Aoife Kelliher

Parent contact sheets will be distributed to parents for whom we don’t already have a completed consent form within the next couple of weeks. In addition we will be updating the PTA mailing list for those who have requested to receive email communication from the PTA. PTA meeting notifications and copy of the meeting minutes will be distributed to those on this mailing list. Minutes will also, as always, be posted on the school website as soon as possible after the meeting at www.wicklowetns.com/PTA. Hard copy of the minutes may be obtained from the school office on request.

4. PARENT-TEACHER WHOLE CLASS MEETINGS

Parent teacher whole class meetings will be scheduled during the week beginning Monday, 26 September (to be confirmed). These meetings are a great opportunity for the parents to meet the class teachers and gain some insight into what is proposed will be covered in class during the coming year and expectations for teachers, parents and pupils. The parent class reps will be attending these meetings to talk to parents about the role of the parent class rep, the role of the PTA, volunteering within WETNS and confirm contact details for parents.

5. PTA AGM – Wednesday, 5 October 2016

The PTA AGM is scheduled for Wednesday, 5 October at 7.30 pm. All parents are encouraged to attend the AGM if at all possible. The agenda will be published prior to the AGM.

6. CALENDAR OF EVENTS 2016-2017

Yvonne gave a brief outline of the calendar of proposed events for the coming year, to include but not limited to:

  • AGM – 5 October
  • International Food Day – October
  • From the Heart Arts Night – October (see further details below)
  • Spraoi na Samhna (Halloween) – last Friday in October
  • Lions Club Quiz – Date TBC in November
  • Thankfulness Week – last week in November
  • WETNS na Nollag Christmas Fair
  • School Photos (?) – January
  • Bake sales – Halloween, Christmas, February (before mid-term), Easter, for 6th class grad
  • Coicís na Gaeilge – 2 weeks beginning of March
  • Paddy’s Day Parade – 17 March
  • Active Week (incorporating Sports Day and Bike to School Day) – June
  • Summer Fair – June
  • 6th class graduation – June

Further details and confirmation of these activities and events to follow as the year progresses.

7. PTA MEETINGS SCHEDULE

Yvonne confirmed that the system previously adopted of alternating PTA meetings between mornings and evenings will continue for the coming school year to facilitate as many parents as possible being able to attend. An agenda for each meeting will be distributed with the email notification and also posted on the website prior the meeting. A schedule of provisional dates for meetings will be drawn up and included with the AGM meeting minutes.

8. FROM THE HEART ARTS NIGHT

Vanessa explained that From the Heart is an opportunity for parents to get together socially for an evening of song, spoken word poetry, music, art, craft, animation presentations, readings, etc. The From the Heart evenings are usually held in Wicklow Sail Club and are a great opportunity for parents to get together (without the children in tow!) to enjoy artistic performances from their fellow parents, to have a chat and a laugh. Any parent who wishes to perform in this very relaxed setting is welcome to do so. This event is not a fundraiser as such although there is usually a small cover charge to cover the cost of the venue, etc. and we also usually have a raffle of handmade gift items donated by the parents. Any parent interested in performing (and this is very much a non-professional gig) can express their desire in advance or just get up on the night if the mood takes them. More details to follow in the coming weeks.

9. COLOUR IN OUR SCHOOL

Vanessa voiced a commonly held view regarding the bareness of the walls in our new building and suggested that as we get settled in some work could be done with each class for collages and murals to brighten the classrooms and corridors. Vanessa has contacts who work on these type of projects within schools to bring life and colour into what is at the moment very much a blank canvas. The PTA will liaise with school administration going forward on this project. A couple of recently arrived parents to WETNS were instrumental in working on this type of project in the City West Educate Together new building and have offered their experience to assist in this project here in WETNS.

10. NEW SCHOOL BUILDING – LOGISTICS

It is acknowledged that we are still in the very early days in our new school building and a lengthy conversation was had regarding a number of items that are of concern to parents at this stage. Below is outlined in general the items that were discussed, questions that were asked and a brief outline of how the discussion went and any proposals for further action.

Morning unlocking of pedestrian gates: It was agreed that there should not be a recurrence of the situation which occurred a couple of times last week where pedestrian access gates were still locked at 8.45 am thereby obliging pupils and parents to enter the school grounds along with vehicular traffic through the main gates. It is suggested that a second keyholder would be on site to unlock the gates at 8.30 am when necessary.

Line-outs: Parents questioned whether the current morning line-out arrangement and entrance at the rear of the building through the three fire doors will be a permanent feature or whether it is temporary until we get settled in? It was felt that the current system of the fire doors opening at 8.50 am and being closed quite soon after did not allow much time for parents to ensure children in different classes especially had accessed the building. It was requested that maybe the doors could be opened a little earlier to facilitate this. However, parents also expressed the view that they liked the security of knowing that once their younger children had gone in the door that they would be safe and secure and unable to leave the building again. It is perceived that a slightly earlier opening time of doors would cover all of these concerns.

Wet weather arrangements: Some clarity was requested regarding whether the gym (as was the case this morning) would be available for pupils and parents to assemble if the weather is bad.

Use of main entrance/front door: A number of parents have expressed the view that they and their children would like to enter the school by the front door as has been traditionally the case. One of the most positive aspects of our school community at WETNS has been that initial sense of welcome upon arrival at school. It is felt by some that currently entering by the front door is like a punishment where the only time pupils get to enter by the front door is if they have missed the narrow window of opportunity to enter at the rear of the school and they are late (for whatever reason) and have to do the “walk of shame”. Some parents felt that having the whole school entering by the front door could be maybe a little unsafe and/or daunting for younger children (and younger siblings). It is acknowledged that what worked in Marine House may not necessarily work in the new building not least because we have more children attending now and very much a different physical set up with regard to accessing the building. Again allowing access slightly earlier could alleviate some of this bottleneck. (Also see discussion regarding Breakfast Club below.) A further discussion with the school administration and the Board on this matter would be welcomed. Parents have volunteered to work on a roster to meet and greet and keep order at the front door if this would assist.

Breakfast Club and Afterschool Club: The idea of a Breakfast Club where children would have supervised access to the school premises from possibly 8 or 8.15 am would alleviate the pressure on a number of fronts. Firstly, it would spread out the arrival time so that all students would not be trying to access the building at the same time in the mornings and thus alleviate some of the pressure on set down and parking and also actual access to the building through the front door. Secondly, it would be of great benefit to working parents who need to be at work for 9 am or soon thereafter. Similarly, an Afterschool Club to extend beyond 3.30 pm (as currently covered by the homework club, which incidentally re-starts today) would be welcomed to ease congestion at collection time and to facilitate working parents. A brief discussion was had around who would supervise the Breakfast and Afterschool Clubs, whether groups could tender for the job or parents again have offered to supervise Breakfast and Afterschool Clubs on a rota. It was agreed that the matter should be discussed with the school administration and the Board as soon as is practicable.

Afterschool Activities: Lisa explained that the information gleaned from the afterschool activity surveys completed by parents prior to the summer holidays had provided some useful pointers for afterschool activities that parents and students would like to have available. Work in this area is ongoing and it is likely that afterschool activities will begin after the mid-term break in early November. There will be an update contained in this week’s newsletter.

Parking: The parking and set down within the school grounds is what it is. It was agreed there is nothing to be gained by rehashing those discussions. However, the current situation that is occurring twice a day on all approaches to the school is little short of chaotic and unfortunately may prove tragic if not addressed. There are possible viable alternatives within close proximity to the school and parents would welcome the opportunity to discuss these alternatives with a view to approaching the County Council. A couple of local councillors are agreeable to support any approach in this regard and representatives from the school administration and Board of Management are requested to also be involved in meetings and discussions going forward as a whole school approach to the Council is likely to be more successful. As has been the case in past meetings on this matter, all opinions and suggestions are welcome. This is an important and sometimes divisive issue within our school community and it is felt that presenting a united front in any approach to the County Council would be beneficial. There is a Council budget meeting in a few weeks’ time and any application or proposal would need to be on the table prior to that if it is to have any chance of success.

Traffic calming on Hawkstown Road: In conjunction with the parking issues above, there is also a serious lack of signage and traffic calming measures on Hawkstown Road outside the school. Many people outside of our school community are unaware that there is now an operating primary school here and the speed of some motorists passing the school is of grave concern. Parents would like the school to approach the County Council in this regard to request traffic calming measures such as speed ramps and more obvious signage and warnings that there is a school ahead. There is also an issue with the traffic light synchronicity at the junction of Rocky Road and Hawkstown Road with the pedestrian green man coinciding with the traffic green light turning onto Hawkstown Road. There have been a couple of near misses in the past week already. Janice has agreed to attend at the Council offices and request an engineer checks the situation asap. Some parents suggested requesting the guards attend to observe and possibly act as deterrent for anti-social driving practices until the traffic calming measures can be instigated and it is requested that the school administration would do this as there has been prior contact between the school and the gardaí when we were at Marine House.

Road Crossing Attendants & Cycle Lane Speed Restrictions: It was agreed that lollipop/crossing attendant(s) would be beneficial to ensure children’s safety when entering and leaving the school grounds and crossing the roads approaching the school. Again this is something that could be done on a parental rota. One parent also pointed out that the older kids on the cycle lanes need to be aware that there are younger children using this facility and to check their speed especially when passing younger cyclists and/or pedestrians. It was suggested that this could be something that could be discussed in class so that the older pupils especially are aware to take care around the little ones. It was also agreed that the actual road crossings themselves both outside the school and within the school grounds need to be more clearly marked/signposted to avoid unnecessary collisions between pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. Also, a barrier at the Rocky Road pedestrian gate, either inside or on the pavement outside, to prevent direct access to the road from cyclists and scooters coming down the ramp should be erected.

Open Day: It is hoped that once we are settled in that the planned Open Day will take place where parents will have free access to the new building to have a proper look around and get a feel for our new home.

Buddy Benches/Daisy Friends: The Buddy Bench is a feature in many primary schools around the country. Yvonne suggested that rather than just having a bench where a child alone may not be noticed that the Student Council could possibly organise a rota of children from each class to monitor the Buddy Bench. Janice suggested that there had been a flower painted on the ground in her children’s previous school and if someone wanted to play they stood on the flower. Since the WETNS logo is a daisy there was an enthusiastic response to the idea of having “Daisy Friends” and it is hoped there will be a number of Daisy Friend spots at intervals around the school yards.

School yard: Parents asked how long the current arrangements of the children being segregated into different class groupings in the schoolyard with red lines marking the boundaries would be in place? Part of the Educate Together ethos is that children of all ages and gender would mix and interact with each other and putting red lines between the classes doesn’t seem to be in keeping with that ethos. Also, some 2nd class parents inquired how soon their children could join the soccer roster at lunch time? Previously, it was from 2nd class up to 6th c lass but this year they have been told that 2nd class are not included on the soccer roster. As a result there are some very upset 2nd class boys and girls. On a related point, football matches for the 20 or so children who are actually rostered to play are taking up half the yard thereby reducing the space that other children have to play other games.

Access to nature: Whilst it is understood that the grass areas cannot be used until most probably the spring to give the grass a chance to grow and establish, there were strongly held opinions that the children need and crave access to nature and there needs to be some facility for them to be able to play and be involved in their natural surroundings. There was some consternation that children were told last week when they were building “bug houses” that they couldn’t get mud on the tarmac/pavement at the rear of the school. Until the school garden is established and the grass grows it was suggested that possibly classes could avail of the close proximity to green spaces and the nearby reservoir for nature walks in conjunction with some form of independent play, be it sandpits or making mud pies or whatever the case may be. It was also suggested that the grass areas within the school grounds should be re-seeded in the spring so that when school returns in the autumn the grass will have had a chance to re-establish itself.

Rainy day arrangements: Parents were also dismayed to realise that not all classes were getting the opportunity to play outside on rainy days. It is requested that where at all possible a rota of even 10 minutes per class be instituted on rainy days so that the children get some fresh air during the day.

Lunchtime Activities: Eamonn said they are looking into the possibility of starting up a lunchtime running club for interested students and he is liaising with students for more ideas. More details to follow when these ideas can be explored further.

Supervision for bus pupils: It was suggested that there should be some form of supervision whilst waiting to enter the building in the morning for younger children who travel to school by bus. Koryne suggested a buddy system with the older children travelling on the bus that they would keep an eye out on the younger ones, an arrangement which has worked well in the past and has had the added advantage of increasing interactions amongst older and younger children in the playground.

PTA storage and meeting room: The allocated storage space for PTA equipment and props is rather inadequate and has resulted in the larger props and boxes of costumes having to be stored off-site. It is hoped in the future when the storage spaces within the school have been more clearly established that we can review the storage facilities for PTA equipment. Likewise, it would be appreciated if there could be a room made available for meetings.

School website: Kenia confirmed to Yvonne prior to the meeting that the school website is in the final stages of its overhaul and should be ready for use in a new interactive format very soon. This will include sections for each of the classes so that teachers and pupils can post photos and reports of class activities, projects and achievements.

Communication: It was stressed how vital communication between the school administration, the Board and the parents is at this stage in our school’s development. With change comes anxiety and parents are understandably concerned on many levels on how everything is going to work and what arrangements will be put in place for our children in our new building. Even if the only news is, “There is no news, bear with us, we’re working on it” that is sometimes all that is necessary to reduce the anxiety.

7. THANK YOU AND CLOSE

Yvonne thanked all for their attendance and the meeting closed.