Parents at Cumnock and Auchinleck Academy have branded the schools a ‘joke’ in their efforts to tackle coronavirus.

Last week, the Chronicle reported on a contact tracing exercise that was underway at both schools after the NHS confirmed a positive case of COVID-19.

In a letter to parents, the risk to pupils was deemed ‘very low’, but that was not enough to dispel concerns in the school community over mask-wearing, social distancing and shared transport.

With the two schools now closed to make way for The Robert Burns Academy which opens on Monday, October 26, the upcoming amalgamation only seems to be exacerbating existing fears over school cleanliness and the increased mixing of pupils.

One mum, whose children attend both Cumnock and Auchinleck Academy, said: “Wearing masks from class to class, how is that going to prevent the virus when they sit in a class not wearing them? It really doesn’t make sense. No teachers have been wearing masks either. The kids should be made to wear them all day.

“The school is a joke and the fact they’re putting two schools together that are rivals is even worse. COVID won’t have a look in when they join.

“They only deep clean on a Friday hence the kids finishing at 12:35pm but why hasn’t the school shut and had a good clean for all pupils’ safety? If my kids catch this at the school, they won’t be back.”

Parents say they feel ignored by the school and council, and call for more open dialogue in the coming months.

The mum continued: “They don’t listen. I’ve had a lot of issues with that school and East Ayrshire Council isn’t any better.

“I just hope they take more care of the new school. I highly doubt it, but I can only hope.”

Another parent, whose son attends Auchinleck Academy, said: “I reached out at the parent council meeting on Zoom about my concerns. They just seemed to make it out like it wasn’t a big deal.

“The head teacher was a bit concerned about the bus situation and was deciding whether to put cameras on the buses or not but apparently that’s an age issue and once the meeting is over you never hear anything back until the next meeting.

“It just feels like no one cares. You feel like no one else thinks it’s a problem but I feel it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

She added: “In Auchinleck Academy, there are no one way systems, hardly any masks in use and hardly anyone using hand sanitizer.

“I asked at the parent council and they just said they can’t make them so they’re not trying. No one is using masks on buses either and that’s six buses with at least 30 or more students leaving both academies.

“I’ve not any confidence in them at all and we’ve had to be so careful for six months just for my son to go to school and maybe get it.

“And even if he doesn’t get it, if he needs to self-isolate for 14 days, my husband has to as well and my daughter won’t be able to go to college.

“There are consequences to them not being careful.”

East Ayrshire Council assures that stringent cleaning measures are being carried out in the schools, with the Cleaning Service team employing a five levels cleaning approach to maintain standards across all buildings.

Andrew Kennedy, Head of Facilities and Property Management, said: “Our award winning teams have a proven track-record and I would like to reassure parents that the cleaning arrangements are extensive and well thought out.

“I would also ask that parents speak to their children and young people to reinforce the importance of personal hygiene as detailed within the pupil safety handbook.”

On face coverings, Linda McAulay-Griffiths, Head of Education, said: “Our risk assessment reflects the most recent guidance available, which currently recommends that a face covering should be worn where adults and young people are moving about the school in corridors and confined communal areas where physical distancing is difficult to maintain and also worn by adults who are interacting with other adults or young people face-to-face for a sustained period (about 15 minutes or more) where 2m physical distancing cannot be achieved.

“We have recently updated our risk assessments in relation to face-to-face contact over a sustained period to make it a requirement for a face covering to be worn by staff where they are unable to maintain physical distancing regardless of the duration or whether they are in a communal area or classroom environment.

“This of course goes above and beyond the measures outlined in the current Scottish Government guidance, but we feel it is necessary to provide further reassurance to staff, parents and our young people and to ensure that our schools are as safe as we can possibly make them.”

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