Primary schools unlikely to reopen in June as union sees ‘mammoth task’ in September

Minister says massive logistical work required to reopen schools in September

The National Public Health Emergency Team has said it does not see schools returning before September.  File photograph: Dave Thompson/PA Wire.

The National Public Health Emergency Team has said it does not see schools returning before September. File photograph: Dave Thompson/PA Wire.

 

It is unlikely that primary schools will reopen in June, the general secretary of the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) John Boyle has said.

Getting children back to school in September will be a “mammoth planning task” he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

With 20 school days to go before the summer break it would be very difficult for schools to reopen, even on a phased basis.

Mr Boyle warned that it may not be possible for all children to return at the same time in September as there will be logistical issues particularly in rural Ireland where many children travel to school by bus.

Also speaking on Thursday, Cillian De Gascun, director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory and member of the National Public Health Emergency Team said at the moment NPHET feels “the prudent thing to do is to leave schools closed.”

Speaking on the Today with Sarah McInerney Show, Mr de Gascun said there is not yet enough evidence to suggest that children pose no risk of passing on the coronavirus.

However, he said a number of countries have brought schools back in recent weeks and NPHET will be “watching what’s happening in those settings over the next two to three weeks and that will inform our decision”.

“We will continue to keep that under review, but we are aware how difficult it is for children not being in school, not having access to their friends, not having that sort of social interaction, so we do know how difficult that is,” Mr De Gascun said.

The INTO’s Mr Boyle said children with complex educational needs will be provided for through summer programmes.

The INTO has been engaging with stakeholders to prepare for the return of children to school, and to see if it would be possible for all children to return at the same time.

The teachers’ union is “certainly up for that challenge,” he added.

The deaths of another 11 patients with Covid-19 were reported by NPHET on Wednesday. There have now been a total of 1,571 Covid-19 related deaths in the Republic.

A total of 64 new laboratory confirmed cases of the disease was reported by NPHET at its daily briefing, bringing the total number of cases to 24,315. This is the fifth day in a row in which the daily case number has remained below 100.

Meanwhile, Minister for Education Joe McHugh said massive logistical work is required in order to reopen schools in time for September.

Mr McHugh said it was clear that a “one size fits all” approach will not apply because of the diversity of school and education settings.

Áine Lynch, chief executive of the National Parents’ Council Primary, said a decision to keep schools closed until September was made at a time when public health conditions were worse than they are now.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) special envoy on Covid-19 also said it is was time to think about reopening schools in Ireland.

Mr McHugh, however, said opening schools needs to be “carefully managed” and planning is under way for the reopening of educational institutions from the beginning of September, in consultation with stakeholders and with regard to the experience of other countries.