Minister for Education, Norma Foley TD, confirmed this week that plans are in place to support the full reopening of schools in time for the start of the new school year at the end of August/start of September 2021.
The Department of Education stated: "As has been the case throughout the pandemic, the reopening will be carried out in close consultation with Public Health and the education partners.
"Schools have been advised that they should continue to operate with the current infection prevention and control measures in place to support their safe operation during COVID-19; when they reopen in the new term schools will continue to be supported in terms of the additional resources necessary to provide for these measures.
"The aim of all of the Covid-19 infection prevention and control measures is to support schools to operate safely and prevent the introduction of Covid-19 and also the onward of transmission of Covid-19 among the school community. These measures protect pupils, their parents and school staff.
"School Covid-19 response plans will be updated by the Department and will be available for schools in advance of reopening. It is not envisaged that there will be any updates that require schools to take action in advance of normal reopening.
"These plans are based on the Government’s Work Safely Protocol which reflects the most up to date public health advice for the workplace. It sets out the range of measures required to prevent the spread of Covid-19."
Minister Foley said: "We are in constant communication with public health specialists ahead of the new school year and we can confirm that we are preparing for a full return of schools in late August and early September.
"Public Health has stated that the new variants of the disease do not change the infection prevention and control measures required in schools. The evidence available from the operation of schools during Covid-19 to date shows that schools are low risk environments due to the infection prevention and control measures in place.
"The provision of CO2 monitors for every school will be an important tool in keeping our schools safe and in addition to the mitigation measures already in place, our staff and students can be confident of returning to safe environments in our schools."
The Department also stated 'it will undertake a communications campaign with parents and students/pupils in advance of school reopening to inform and remind them of the arrangements in place in schools operating during Covid-19. This will include specifically targeted information at new pupils entering primary and post-primary schools to ensure they are familiar with the new arrangements. The Department will continue to engage regularly with key education partners and with the Department of Health and the HSE in respect of the safe operation of schools during Covid-19'.