How field schools can cope with COVID-19

The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 brought field school activity to a halt in Ireland and elsewhere across the summer. Courses were cancelled, refunds were sent to disappointed students around the world, and we retreated into lockdown with our families in the hope of better times to come.

We are now preparing for Summer 2021 and, at this time, we are planning to run our full range of courses across our usual 12-week summer season. We can only do this if we are not constrained by international travel restrictions and/or local lockdowns – these things are outside of our control and we can’t see far enough ahead to know where we’ll stand with these potential restrictions in Summer 2021, so all we can do now is plan for a busy summer and see how it goes.

One important thing to note is that, since we first welcomed students to Galway in 2014, we have always given every student their own bedroom in a shared apartment. Not every field school does this – some field schools use dormitory-style accommodation and put four or more students into each bedroom, while in warmer countries some even accommodate their students in shared tents. We have always felt that students appreciate having their own space, but this is even more important now in the COVID-19 era – we will continue to ensure that each student has their own room to stay in, as shared bedrooms are not a good idea at this time. That said, students will need to share other spaces – the communal spaces in their apartments, the space on the field school bus, the space in our on-site offices, but we will ensure that suitable procedures are put in place to minimise the risk of virus transmission for everyone.