Plans over time off and exams for 900,000 children
Contingency plans for the closure of schools and higher education institutions are ramping up as the spread of coronavirus continues.
No decision has been made to shut down the education system, but such a move is regarded as inevitable - and the question is when.
As preparations intensify, the Department of Education has invited stakeholders, including representatives of school managers, principals, teacher unions, parents' organisations and higher education institutions to a briefing today.
The department has already circulated a raft of advice, and the briefing is seen as a "belt and braces" action to ensure everyone involved is making all the necessary arrangements and to answer any questions.
The Government is acting on the advice of public health officials in terms of when would be an appropriate time to close some or all schools and colleges to act as fire-break in the face of the spread of the disease.
But political pressure is mounting, with Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald calling for the Easter holidays to be brought forward to next week - with parents getting the maximum notice - while the Greens want to hold discussions on immediate school closures.
With about 900,000 children aged between four and 18 at school - more than half are primary pupils - the ramifications of closing the system outside scheduled holiday breaks for which working parents can prepare are enormous.
In higher education, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) brought forward an important final year exam for medical students to this week to ensure there would be no obstacle to their graduation and entering the workforce this summer.
RCSI is planning similar arrangements for other health professional final-year students, while for all other years, plans are in place depending on the courses and the nature of planned exams.
Yesterday, Trinity College Dublin switched to online lectures, although face-to-face activities involving smaller groups are continuing, and contingency planning in other higher education institutions is at an advanced stage, including a widespread move to online lectures.
Among the major challenges facing the colleges is making alternative arrangements for exams.
In an update to its students, the University of Limerick stated that it would adhere to the exam schedule as far as is possible, but that the traditional closed-book written exam may need to be replaced with an alternative, conducted online.
Similarly, at UCD, alternatives to formal exams, such as replacing them with continuous assessment activity, online assessment or "open book" exams is being considered.
The coronavirus scare has also led to the cancellation of a number of important events in college calendars, including conferring ceremonies at Maynooth University scheduled for next week.
The Irish Universities Association has established a liaison group with senior representatives from each of the seven universities to help coordinate plans and to share information on a daily basis.
Between them, the universities have almost 150,000 staff and students, including close to 20,000 international students.
As well as measures to maintain the continuity of academic activities so far as possible, they are also preparing for the management of on-campus student accommodation, as well as sports, recreational and cultural facilities that attract visitors.
Meanwhile, school psychologists have issued advice for teachers and parents on how to talk to children about coronavirus, including the need to provide factual information, on an age-appropriate basis.
The Department of Education has posted the guidance, which was drawn up by the National Educational Psychological Service, on its website.
Confirmations may have to be postponed at short notice, priests need to find an alternative to passing collection baskets and those vulnerable should not attend funerals, the Catholic Bishops have said.