Almost half of all secondary schools in the State are having problems hiring builders to carry out works to allow for Covid-19 physical distancing rules, a new survey suggests.
On the back of the findings, the Teachers Union of Ireland is insisting on delaying the reopening of any schools which cannot safely space out teachers and pupils over the coming days and weeks.
Michael Gillespie, TUI general secretary, warned extended closures are the "only acceptable option" where schools cannot strictly enforce public health measures.
“Should a school not be in a position to open as scheduled in a manner consistent with the physical distancing requirements set out by the public health authorities, a delay in opening is the only acceptable option,” he said.
“There can be no departure from the specified physical distancing measures in schools. Every school must adhere to this key protection.”
The union has polled principals and deputy principals at 124 schools between August 11th and August 18th. It found 47 per cent of schools were having difficulties “employing builders or other contractors with the required skills/expertise to make required adjustments”.
The survey also found 66 per cent of principals and deputy principals who responded are aware of teachers in their schools with underlying health issues that puts them in the high-risk category for contracting Covid-19.
Almost three quarters (73 per cent) knew teachers in their school who live with family members with medical conditions that make them extremely vulnerable to the disease.
“This is a hugely stressful time for them,” said Mr Gillespie.
The vast majority of school heads (95 per cent) believe their teachers want to return to face-to-face teaching and learning, but that it must be done “in a manner that protects the health and safety of all”.
Almost three quarters (73 per cent) do not believe that students have the required technology to take part in remote learning if their school was required to close for a period, the poll found.
The survey further suggests that virtually every school (98 per cent) in the country has had difficulties employing substitute teachers over the the past 12 months.
Adrian Power, president of the Principals' and Deputy Principals' Association branch of the TUI, said the lack of supply teachers was a cause for concern.
“This will undoubtedly pose problems in the coming months should the need arise due to absences and there will be an ongoing need for funding from the Department of Education,” he added.