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Schools reopening Q&A: What will classrooms look like? And what will happen if there is an outbreak?

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Stock photo: PA

Stock photo: PA

PA

Stock photo: PA

Schools are due to open next month, but an outbreak in a creche last week has raised a lot of questions. Here Wayne O'Connor answers some concerns.

The schools are coming back but wasn't there an outbreak at a creche last week? Does that not put the kibosh on reopening plans?

Yes, someone working at a creche in Dublin tested positive but that doesn't seem to have hampered plans, and schools are still going to get the go-ahead to reopen in a month. Childcare providers will remain open unless they are told otherwise after public health doctors evaluate the risk of them operating. Schools are likely to be dealt with in the same way when they return, so an outbreak at a school should not impact others.

Okay. So what is going to happen with schools?

Well, the full plan is being rolled out this week but the Taoiseach and Education Minister insist schools will reopen fully. However, special exemptions are likely to apply where individual pupils or teachers are in at-risk groups and cannot attend school.

What's going to happen to them?

For teachers, unions want them to be utilised from home, so that will probably involve remote teaching and blended learning. For pupils, teachers are adamant any child who cannot attend school must be treated equally to those who can attend. They want specialist online resources to help them with learning to be fully operational by September 1.

And what will the schools actually look like?

Very different to the ones pupils left in March. Although the plan has not been unveiled, principals hope there will be a one-metre rule for schools. However, because many of our schools are old, enforcing this will be a challenge. Anything over a metre will be more difficult. Sanitation stations, improved bathroom facilities for handwashing and even isolation stations in some schools should all become features of the so-called 'new normal'.

What's this about new coroners? Are they worried about deaths again?

The number of deaths has dropped compared to the early phases of the crisis, so the extra coroners are going to help with inquests into Covid-19-related deaths and a backlog in other cases caused by the need to practise social distancing.

How have our numbers been?

Well, the good news is that yesterday morning, there was a reported drop in hospital cases, although there were still 10 people being treated in hospital and five in ICU.

So what's the bad news?

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly last week told the Dail that health officials have warned we are going to have a second surge at some point in the future.

That's ominous.

It gets worse. Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said a third wave of people dying because of other health conditions that don't get treated is a possibility. He said a fourth wave caused by people dying due to economic consequences and increased poverty brought on by the pandemic could also arise.

Sunday Independent


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