Classrooms to get carbon dioxide monitors as part of safe school reopening plans

Teachers up to 14 weeks pregnant may resume in-school teaching under new guidance

Minister for Education Norma Foley has said schools will continue to be supported in terms of additional resources needed to operate infection prevention and control measures. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister for Education Norma Foley has said schools will continue to be supported in terms of additional resources needed to operate infection prevention and control measures. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

All schools are due to receive updated Department of Education guidance shortly on safe reopening along with details of the distribution of tens of thousands of new carbon dioxide monitors aimed at managing classroom ventilation.

Primary and secondary schools are due to fully reopen in late August and early September despite a rise in Covid-19 cases linked to the new Delta variant.

Schools will be advised that they should continue to operate existing infection prevention and control measures such as social distancing, pods, hand sanitising and mask wearing at second level.

The latest public health advice says that new variants do not change the infection prevention and control measures required in schools.

However, the distribution of carbon dioxide monitors is due to commence shortly as part of a new step to help schools stay safe.

A Department of Education spokesman said logistics for the distribution of monitors to schools in August and September are being finalised and schools will be informed of arrangements next week.

Up to 20 monitors will be provided to each primary school and up to 35 for schools at post-primary level, depending on school size.

A spokesman said the monitors are portable, simple to use and will allow schools to focus their use on rooms which need most ventilation.

The vaccination of teaching staff will not be mandatory but is being strongly recommended as a protective measure.

Campaign

Capacity limits on school transport services will remain in place, and a multilingual public awareness campaign is being planned ahead of school reopening, according to a briefing given to teachers’ unions on the school reopening plans.

This will include targeted information at new pupils entering primary and post-primary schools to ensure they are familiar with the new arrangements.

Schools will be asked to adopt Covid-19 response plans for the coming year, but there will be no need for board of management meetings to do so on the basis that they were adopted last year.

Staff meetings and parent-teacher meetings will continue to be held remotely, while all schools will be required to ensure that returning staff complete return-to-work forms in the days prior to reopening.

As was the case last year, teachers categorised as being at very high risk of serious illness from contracting Covid-19 will be allowed to work remotely.

In a change of health advice, pregnant teachers or special needs assistants who are medically fit for work will be required to return to the classroom up to 14 weeks into their pregnancy. This follows revised HSE guidance issued last month.

Pregnant staff were allowed to work from home during much of the last academic year pending a review by the HSE into risks linked to Covid-19 and stillbirths.

Enhanced

Millions of euro once again is set to be provided for PPE, enhanced cleaning and hand-sanitising measures.

It is expected similar arrangements to last year will be put in place for schools to draw down this equipment or secure funding for cleaning services.

The school guidance – likely to be issued next week – follows a Cabinet meeting in late July at which plans to reopen schools were finalised.

Minister for Education Norma Foley said schools will continue to be supported in terms of the additional resources needed to operate with the current infection prevention and control measures.

At the time she said school Covid-19 response plans will be updated by the department and will be available for schools in advance of reopening.

She said it was not envisaged that there will be any updates that require schools to take action in advance of normal reopening.