Parents will be asked to sign school Covid-19 forms

Ban on parents congregating outside and guidance on ventilating classrooms

In new guidance, schools will be advised to keep windows open fully during break-times and at the end of the school day, and partially open when classrooms are in use. Photograph: iStock

In new guidance, schools will be advised to keep windows open fully during break-times and at the end of the school day, and partially open when classrooms are in use. Photograph: iStock

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Parents of children returning to school will be asked to sign declaration forms stating that they have no reason to believe their child has an infectious disease such as Covid-19.

It is one of a number of new safety measures contained in a draft framework for reopening schools in light of the greater infection threat posed by the new UK variant.

Parents will also be urged to avoid congregating outside schools, while public health doctors will provide a series of videos online calling on parents to “err on the side of caution” by keeping symptomatic children at home.

In new guidance, schools will be advised to keep windows fully open during break-times and at the end of the school day, and partially open when classrooms are in use.

To prevent classrooms getting too cold, schools will be required to check boiler temperatures are set at levels to “maximise the available heat to the school” and should operate for extended periods during colder weather.

The Department of Education, unions and school managers have been meeting this week to discuss the planned reopening of primary and second-level schools.

While no formal reopening date has been agreed, sources are hopeful primary and secondary schools will be able to reopen on a phased basis from March 1st onwards.

Priority groups – such as younger classes at primary level and Leaving Certs at second level – are likely to return first, followed by other year groups over a period of several weeks as determined by public health guidance.

Support for reopening schools among parents is very high, with 90 per cent of the 6,000 parents surveyed by the National Parents Council stating that schools should reopen in line with public health advice.

Leaving Cert

Talks are also taking place between the department and education representatives on the format of the Leaving Cert exams. An announcement is due on Thursday or Friday of this week.

It is likely all Leaving Cert students will be given the option of availing of a modified version of calculated grades as well as sitting the written exams.

A number of options around assessing students for oral and practical exams are understood to have been under discussion recently.

Minister for Education Norma Foley is due to brief Ministers on the latest developments at a meeting of the Cabinet committee on education on Wednesday.

The draft school reopening framework, meanwhile, is understood to state that schools will have the capacity to utilise the entire school premises during the phased reopening.

Surgical grade masks will be provided to special needs assistants and special education teachers, while the use of visors may be worn in addition to – but not instead of – masks.

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