Revealed: Tipperary schools' visors helping to protect Covid-19 frontline staff

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Aileen Hahesy reports on the thousands of PPE visors made by teachers at Tipperary's St Ailbe's School and Clonmel's Central Technical Institute

Teachers at Tipperary Town's St Ailbe's School and Clonmel's Central Technical Institute have produced more than 3000 face visors over the past month that are helping to protect healthcare workers and other workers on the frontline of tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.
Teachers specialising in woodwork and metal work at these two South Tipperary based Education & Training Board schools gave up much of their Easter school holidays to manufacturing the visors and organising their distribution to nursing homes, residential care centres, pharmacies, hospitals, dental and GP surgeries.
In North Tipperary, teachers at Colaiste Pobail in Roscrea, another Tipperary ETB school, are also involved in the visor making effort.
The ETB schools campaign was kick started by teachers at St Ailbe's School in Tipperary who have to date made close to 2100 visors for people on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis.
St Ailbe's woodwork teacher Eoin Kennedy got the ball rolling when he downloaded a visor design from an American university, made a few adaptations and started making the visors using the school's laser machine.
His colleagues, metal work teacher Ray Roche and business teacher Denis Keating have been helping him. Ray make visors while Denis co-ordinates their distribution.
Once word got out about their endeavours, the orders for visors started flowing in to them.
“The requests came in quick and fast,” said Eoin. “We started with anyone in our own catchment area; the town's GP surgeries, public health nurses, nursing homes and elderly care hospitals. News travelled fast and we branched out to supplying them to many more nursing homes and GPs throughout South Tipperary.”
Staff at Woodlands Nursing Home, Dundrum and St Martha's Nursing Home near Cahir, Cluain Arann Welfare Home & Community Nursing Unit in Tipperary Town as well as O'Dwyer's Pharmacy in Cashel are among the local healthcare workers using visors made at St Ailbe's as part of their Personal Protective Equipment.
St Ailbe's visors are also being worn by staff in South Tipperary General Hospital as well as Limerick University Hospital and Croom Hospital in Limerick.
Eoin and his two colleagues spent the Easter school holidays making visors to keep up with the orders. He said they worked between six and eight hours a day and produced about 100 visors a day.
“There are requests coming in from places we didn't initially think of such as dentists working on emergency procedures. A few undertakers have got them from us as well.”
Production of the visors was scaled back last week when the three teachers returned to tutoring their students remotely at home.
Eoin reports demand for the visors has begun to slow down. He sees this as a positive sign that enough PPE is now getting to frontline healthworkers.
Eoin hopes the visors they are making will help workers on the frontline of this pandemic.
St Ailbe's School principal Ruaidhri Devitt immediately gave his support Eoin asked him could he make the visors. He said St Ailbe's was delighted to be doing something to contribute to the national effort to fight this virus.
He said teachers initially used perspex the school had in stock to make the visors but that soon ran out so they sought sponsorship and donations to purchase materials for the visors.
“Johnson & Johnson in Limerick gave us a substantial donation and we also got donations from Éire Óg Annacarty GAA Club (Eoin's local club), Zurich Insurance and Tipperary Credit Union. I think we have got in the region of €3000 in sponsorship,” said
Mr Devitt also paid tribute to Patrick Kenny of PPE Donations Ireland who has helped the school with transporting the visors to the places they are required around the Munster region.
The school has also set up a GoFund Me page for people wishing to make donations to the St Ailbe's teachers' visors production campaign.
Mr Devitt said any money left over after the coronavirus crisis will be donated to local charities.
He thanked everyone who has supported the campaign through donations and sponsorship.
Meanwhile, the work by St Ailbe's teachers has inspired a group of teachers at Clonmel's Central Technical Institute to also start producing visors for the Covid-19 effort.
CTI woodwork teacher Stephen Buckley said he and colleagues Liam Lonergan (metalwork), Susan McCarthy (art and metalwork), Jonathan Nolan and Colm O'Conghaola (woodwork) operated a rota over the Easter holidays where one of them a day went into the school and made visors with the school's laser cutting machine,
Stephen said they have made more than 1000 visors so far and supplied them to the staff at nursing homes in Clonmel, Carrick-on-Suir and Cashel as well as gardai in Clonmel and Cashel, who are using them while operating checkpoints.
The CTI teachers have also given visors to a local family who have a daughter awaiting a heart transplant.
Stephen said a lot of frontline workers prefer wearing visors to masks as people they are dealing with can see their faces.
“We will continue making them as long as the demand is there,” he told The Nationalist.
He thanked Cashel Sinn Fein TD Martin Browne for donating €500 towards their effort.
Central Technical Institute Principal John McCarthy paid tribute to the teachers who have given up their free time to make visors for health and other workers on the frontline in the Covid-19 crisis.
“We are very proud of the staff who came into the school every day over the Easter trying to do their little bit for those in worse circumstances,” he said.
Mr McCarthy invited anyone who needs one of the visors produced by the CTI's teachers or wishes to make a donation towards their production to contact the school by emailing: jmccarthy@tipperaryetb.ie