A national school principal says he is 'frantically' looking for substitute teachers to stand in for almost half of his staff who are in Covid-19 related isolation or restricting their movements, ahead of Thursday's reopening.
Bryan Collins believes principals are “at their wits’ end” in trying to figure out what to do as it appears over 100 teachers in 39 schools in his surrounding counties will be absent.
The principal of Scoil Naomh Feichin in Termonfeckin, Co Louth, says at least five of his 11 teaching staff will be out on Thursday as the school prepares to welcome back up to 290 children.
The INTO has warned that 8,000 primary teachers – 15pc of the total – could be out tomorrow either with Covid or restricting their movements because they are a close contact.
"We are looking forward to starting a new term but there's a very dark cloud on the horizon,” Mr Collins said.
"Due to the much increased level of transmission of Covid-19 in recent weeks, we are noticing that a large number of primary teachers and SNAs [special needs assistants] will not be able to return to school this week as they will be required to isolate due to being a confirmed case themselves or a close contact."
Mr Collins is co-ordinator of the north east branch of the IPPN Primary Principals Network and carried out a survey on Tuesday of 39 schools in the Louth and Meath areas.
"From the survey, it appears that over 100 primary teachers will be absent from school due to Covid-19 on Thursday & Friday this week,” Mr Collins said.
"With the acute shortage of substitute teachers few of these absences will be covered. The question is then, who takes these classes?
"Local principals in the Louth/Meath area are at their wits’ end this week trying to figure out what to do in their individual schools."
The initial weeks of 2022 are going to be extremely challenging for schools.
Bryan Collins himself has had to teach classes before Christmas for several weeks due to a chronic shortage, anyway of substitute teachers.
Mr Collins says his survey shows that 86 classroom teachers, 20 special education teachers, three supply teachers and over 30 special needs assistants cannot come in this week due to Covid-19 isolation guidelines.
"And this number may be increased as numbers grow,” Mr Collins said.
"In our own school in Termonfeckin, five teachers will be unable to return to work this week and I'm frantically looking for anyone who will agree to act as a sub teacher for a day or two.
"And the scariest thing is that this situation will potentially get far worse once all the kids are back at school as transmission and infection rates will undoubtedly soar.”