Crèches will struggle to cope with a surge in demand for places if school hours are cut in September, a Government report has warned.
A plan for the reopening of the sector by Children's Minister Katherine Zappone's department said providers "may be unlikely to meet any increased demand" as they "may also be operating at reduced capacity".
The report also raises concerns for 400 pre-schools and other providers offering early learning and school-age childcare on school premises.
School management may require their rooms if it needs to increase capacity because of social distancing guidelines.
"Any change to the above arrangements could impact significantly on early learning and care and school-age childcare capacity at local and national level," warns the report.
It says the sector already faces difficulties meeting demand from its previously registered parents for places when services reopen on June 29.
Children of 'essential' workers will be given priority when services reopen later this month, but it is unclear how many places will be available.
The report says early learning and care and school-age childcare services managed a capacity of roughly 220,000 children before Covid-19.
"Should a scenario arise where schools resume in September with reduced hours, it must be noted that the childcare sector (which may also be operating at reduced capacity) may be unlikely to meet any increased demand arising," says the Planning for reopening Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare Services report.
"The sector may have difficulties meeting demand from its previously registered parents from June 29 onwards.
"It is unknown whether it will be able to meet any significant additional demand resulting from schools potentially operating on reduced hours for children."
Meanwhile, the Government was last night expected to approve funding for the phased reopening of childcare facilities.
The amount being spent is unclear but it will be expected to fund the sector for two months from June 29.
Director of policy at providers' organisation Early Childhood Ireland Frances Byrne said she believes there could be a hike in demand in the new school year.
"It's all so up in the air and uncertain, it's really hard to know," she said.
"There are a number of crèches and after-school care facilities based in schools and the question you have to ask is if schools, for public health reasons, need social distancing or smaller classrooms, they might need those rooms, so what happens?"
She said 52pc of the sector does not open in the summer, so it will be crucial that funding is in place to support the full reopening in September.
Meanwhile, chief executive of the National Childhood Network Denise McCormilla said nobody really knows what parents are going to do in relation to childcare on June 29.
"Parents are fearful and have made other arrangements over the summer," she said.
"Secondary school and college students are minding children, while their parents are working from home.
"If schools are on reduced hours, it could play havoc, but we're trying to anticipate this and be as positive as possible."
Prior to restrictions, 56pc of parents cared for their children in their home, with 27pc availing of centre-based childcare.