The news that the Leaving Cert will go ahead in late July or early August will be welcomed by the 61,000 exam students who have been clamouring for certainty.
They have been under enormous strain for the past few weeks. A survey carried out by Foróige among 16-18-year-olds reported they are finding it difficult to do school work at home while simultaneously worrying about the health and safety of their loved ones.
"This 'double whammy' of anxiety and health concerns puts an enormous weight on the shoulders of so many of our young people," according to the Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon.
It will be eased a little with the latest announcement. But the students will have to be kept up to date with the details of the arrangements for a return to school and for holding the exams. These will be finalised over the next few weeks. Junior Cycle students may be upset by the news their exams won't go ahead as planned - instead they will face school-based exams and assessment in the next school year. That's assuming, of course, agreement can be reached with their teachers on assessments.
There was never any doubt the national and political obsession with the Leaving Certificate was always going to take precedence over the Junior Cert. The Taoiseach's declaration it would be run 'by hook or by crook' certainly concentrated official minds.
They were already wrestling with various options including the much-touted predicted grades idea which was seen as the worst-case scenario. That idea has retreated into the background. It won't be aired again unless the virus continues a relentless course and forces the cancellation of the July/August exam provision.
The demands for clarity on the Leaving Cert had grown stronger in recent days and resulted in the latest announcement. An online stakeholder meeting was scheduled for the morning but was pushed back until the afternoon when representatives of the teachers, students, parents, principals and school managers were given details of the plans.
The managers and their teachers will now have to put on the green jersey and open the schools for classes in July to help prepare their students for the exam. Minister Joe McHugh acknowledged the "tremendous goodwill" he had met from teachers and school managers. Although a few may have misgivings, the attitude of most was hopefully summed up by the Cork-based teacher who told the Irish Independent that "morally and professionally I have no problem with that".
Whether or not that spirit of generosity extends to school-based exams and assessment for the Junior Cert remains to be seen. Many in the ASTI remain strongly opposed to teachers assessing their own students for exam purposes.
There are still huge logistical issues to overcome to run the exams successfully. They will then have to be marked as quickly as possible and the results transferred to the CAO which can turn out first round college within two or three days.
Assuming the virus has not gone away, social distancing will have to be strictly enforced during classes and especially during the exam.
More rooms will be used to ensure this happens and precautions will be taken to avoid large groups of students congregating outside after each exam. The special needs assistants in our schools may have to be called on to help out.
It will also be all hands on deck after the exam finishes to get the papers marked quickly. It could be a scramble to get some examiners for some subjects and third-level lecturers and others may be invited to apply to do the work.
Following the announcement the CAO will need to hold urgent talks with college admissions officers to draw up a revised schedule for the first round of offers. Last year applicants got their CAO offers two days after getting their Leaving Cert results. They had a deadline of eight days within which to accept their offers of college places. This year, the deadline for accepting offers may have to be shortened so colleges can get first-year enrolments and registrations under way sometime in October or November. They will most likely take in first years at least a month later than usual.
However, second, third and other year students may be able to start closer to normal.
We know that disadvantaged students are being hit most by being forced to study at home.
They often don't have the same home support or digital technology as others. Nor do they have the essential classroom contact with their teachers who help them remain motivated.
It's also worth noting the needs of the one in six of this year's Leaving Cert students who didn't apply to the CAO for a college place are largely overlooked in all the discussion about holding the exam.
We have also been reminded how reliant we are on a written terminal exam and how much the colleges depend on it for selecting students. It might be timely to examine these issues again in more detail.