Back to school Q&A: What parents need to know ahead of reopening

Parents urged to avoid congregating outside school and to be extra cautious for Covid symptoms

The classroom will remain the same as last year with physical distancing rules and pods, along with strict enforcement of handwashing and good hygiene classes and existing rules. Photograph: Alan Betson

The classroom will remain the same as last year with physical distancing rules and pods, along with strict enforcement of handwashing and good hygiene classes and existing rules. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Will there be new safety measures in place at my child’s school?

The classroom will remain the same as last year with physical distancing rules and pods, along with strict enforcement of handwashing and good hygiene classes and existing rules.

Face mask rules also remain: they are mandatory for students at second level and not required for primary pupils.

The only difference of note is that schools are being advised to keep windows partially open during class and fully open at break times – though many were doing this already.

Are there new guidelines for parents to follow?

Parents are being asked not to congregate outside schools during drop-off and pick-up. This was an issue in some schools last year.

In addition, parents are being advised to be extra cautious over keeping children out of school if they have any Covid-19 symptoms, such as a high temperature, a new cough or if they are a close contact of a positive case.

What happens if my child is a close contact of a positive case in school?

The same rules apply as last year.

Any student or staff who tests positive must self-isolate.

Following a risk assessment, any student or staff member who is deemed a close contact must restrict their movements for up to 14 days since they were last in contact with the positive case.

If your child has another sibling who is not identified as a close contact, they can continue to attend school.

However, if anyone in the household tests positive, everyone must stay at home.

How will school transport operate?

Students will continue to have assigned seats on buses.

Primary school buses will operate at normal capacity, while secondary school buses will run at 50 per cent capacity. Secondary students must wear a face mask when waiting for the bus and on board.

When are children due back in the classroom?

The following timetable has been agreed with education partners.

The reopening dates are provisional and may be delayed depending on whether the public health situation deteriorates.

March 1st: Junior infants, senior infants, first and second class due to return to primary school; sixth years due to return to secondary school.

March 8th: Early Childhood Care and Education preschool scheme (typically three to five year olds )due to reopen.

March 15th: Third, fourth, fifth and sixth classes due to return to primary school; fifth years due to return to secondary school.

March 29th: Early learning and care (from birth to six years) and school-age childcare services (up to 14 years) to reopen.

April 12th: First-, second-, third- and fourth-year students due to return to secondary school.

My children aren’t due back in the first phase of reopening – but my school says they can return next Monday. Is this correct?

In some small schools, where senior classes and junior classes are mixed, children outside the cohorts due to return on March 1st may return. So, for example, if second and third class are mixed, the third class may return on Monday.

Similarly, some small secondary schools have combined fifth- and sixth-year classes in some subjects. In these cases, the fifth years may return from Monday onwards.

What teachers and SNAs are due to return next week?

At primary level, teachers from junior infants to second class will return on Monday next. All SNAs may be asked to attend by their school if needed.

Pregnant, high-risk staff and the over-60s may continue to work remotely during the phased reopening.

At second level, all teachers required for face-to-face teaching of sixth-year students are due back in school. Others can stay at home.

Similarly, pregnant, high-risk staff and the over-60s may continue to work remotely during the phased reopening.

Will students be in their regular classrooms?

It’s up to individual schools. They have been told they may use the capacity of the entire school premises during the phased reopening.In practice, however, most pupils are likely to remain in their regular classroom.

Do I need to sign a declaration form stating that my child is free from Covid symptoms before schools reopen?

A school reopening framework document for schools says parents of children returning to school will be asked to complete a declaration form confirming that they do not have symptoms of any disease. This form is available online.

The Department of Education has confirmed parents should sign the forms.