Thirteen things parents and students should know on returning to school:
Face masks/coverings are mandatory in secondary schools and should be worn by both staff and students. Primary students do not have to wear masks, according to public health advice. However, teachers, special needs assistants (SNAs) and other staff will have to wear masks where 2m social distancing can’t be met.
Pupils should use standard blue masks. Nick Killian, from Ratoath College board of management, reminded students that masks should not become a fashion statement, and shouldn't offend or intimidate other students. "It’s not halloween, it's back to school," he said.
Face coverings should NOT be worn by anyone who has breathing difficulties, who’s unable to remove the covering without assistance, or by anyone with special needs and who may get upset or uncomfortable wearing the covering.
Temperature checks are not recommended in schools by the Government. Fever isn’t a symptom consistent with Covid-19 in children, according to public health guidance.
Parents are advised if their child has symptoms, including a temperature of 38C and above, a cough, shortness of breath or breathing difficulties or/and loss or change of smell, they shouldn’t be attending school. However, runny noses are to be expected in school age children and shouldn’t be a reason to stay off.
School visitors must be minimised and visits must be made by appointment. Visitors have to maintain a 2m social distance from those they meet.
Schools can refuse access to pupils/staff if there is concern that anyone has not fulfilled the mandatory requirement to self-isolate for 14 days following return from any non green list countries.
If a parent fears their child has Covid-19, they must keep the child at home and completely avoid all contact with others, self-isolating. Parents should phone their GP if they are concerned and they can advise on testing.
Children can return to school if they have been given a negative Covid-19 test and are 48 hours without any symptoms. But any children who have tested positive for Covid-19 need to remain at home until they haven’t had a temperature above 38C for five days and if it’s been 14 days since they first developed symptoms.
Though children’s temperatures won’t be taken at school. Temperatures are taken in French schools, though not across Europe.
In many situations schools will divide children into pods of four or six. Children will be separated from their teacher and other tables by at least 1m. And each class ‘bubble’ will be separate from other classes. That means staggered break times and dividing the playground into areas for different classes.
Some schools are asking children not to bring lunch boxes, as a way of preventing contamination between home and school. Paper bags are seen as preferable.
Most schools will favour pre-packaged meals being eaten at school and lunchtimes being staggered. Some schools are looking at having some lessons and lunchtimes outside.
There will be staggered drop off and pick up times at schools, with classes being released at different times to prevent parents congregating in groups outside the school.
Buddy systems are being rolled out for children who take the bus to school. Students will have to sit next to the same child each day. However, anyone who can walk or cycle to school is being encouraged to do so by the Government.
Some schools are expected to move towards students using tablets rather than children handwriting in copy books, as a way to avoid contamination.