A defect in 10,000 carbon dioxide monitors has delayed a Government pledge to ensure all classrooms are equipped with one by mid-September.
The full delivery of 35,000 carbon dioxide monitors to all primary and secondary schools was due to be completed next week.
This means that some secondary schools will be briefly left short of between 10 and 25 monitors and some primary schools will be left short of between three to 10.
These monitors measure the quality of air in a room, allowing staff to identify where ventilation needs to be improved, which is important for decreasing the spread of Covid-19.
As students and staff breathe, they emit carbon dioxide, and a build-up of the gas indicates that a room needs to be better ventilated, for example by opening windows or vents.
The monitors allow staff to regularly check the level of CO2 in a room and reduce the risk of transmission of Covid should anyone in a class be unknowingly infected.
Lennox Laboratories - which is managing the supply and distribution of the monitors to schools – said that 25,000 monitors should be delivered to schools by the end of this week.
The 10,000 defective monitors have not been distributed to schools and the company said a defect with the LCD display was discovered in these monitors when they were checked following assembly in a UK facility.
Depending on the size of the school, primary schools are due to receive between one and 20 devices each while secondary schools may receive up to 25 monitors each.
According to Lennox, about 96pc of primary schools will have received their full allocation of monitors by the end of this week.
“The remaining 4pc of schools will have received 10 monitors each. This leaves a balance of three and 10 CO2 monitors to be provided for each of these schools, depending on their size,” a spokesperson for Lennox added.
“[Secondary schools] will have received 10 CO2 monitors, leaving a balance of between 10 and 25 CO2 monitors for these schools.”
The company said it is working with the manufacturer to confirm how quickly a replacement batch of the 10,000 affected monitors can be provided to schools, however, “given the global demand for C02 monitors” it is expected to be during October.
It added: “Lennox is fully aware of the impact this will have on schools and is working with the Department of Education and the manufacturer to rectify the situation as fast as possible.”
First reported in the Irish Times this morning, the Department of Education has now sent an email to schools today to inform them that the full allocation of monitors will not be delivered by the end of this week.
The Department of Education it is “disappointed” at the news of a delay with the delivery of this final delivery of monitors.
A spokesperson added: "Lennox Laboratories has identified options that should enable the remaining balance of CO2 monitors to be distributed to schools in late September/early October.
“In the interim, the Department is advising schools this morning that if they wish they can make arrangements directly for procuring the balance of its CO2 monitors directly themselves, rather than via the current arrangements.
“The Department is providing schools with a technical specification for the monitors, and schools may share these specifications with suppliers for guidance.
"The cost incurred by a school in procuring the shortfall in CO2 monitors locally can be recouped from the Department.”
The Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) said it is disappointed and dismayed by today’s news.
“These monitors constitute an important extra tool in the fight to ensure that Covid-19 transmission is minimised in schools,” ASTI president Eamon Dennehy said.
"School communities have worked so hard to ensure that the infection prevention and control measures are effective throughout this pandemic.
"It is disheartening in the extreme that the rollout of these monitors to schools has been delayed. It is incumbent on the Department of Education to now make every effort to ensure that the problem is addressed as a matter of urgency.”
The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) also said it is “extremely disappointed” that the delivery of 10,000 monitors will be delayed.
“TUI first called for the provision of these monitors last November, and if the process of procurement and distribution had begun at this time, schools would already have their full quantity,” TUI general secretary Michael Gillespie said.
"We have made strong representation to the Department of Education today that the outstanding allocation of these monitors must be delivered to schools as soon as is possible.”
Any schools that have queries in relation to the supply of C02 monitors are encouraged to contact the helpline on (01) 2248675 or C02@lennox.ie.