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Ronan Glynn asks parents not to organise play dates or meet at school gates as schools to reopen next week

Around 320,000 students are to return to school buildings next week as part of a phased reopening.

Image: RollingNews.ie

DEPUTY CHIEF MEDICAL Officer Dr Ronan Glynn has written a letter to parents ahead of schools reopening next Monday, 1 March. 

From next week, junior and senior infants, first and second class students and Leaving Cert students can return to school buildings for the first time this year. Schools for children with special needs will also open at full capacity from Monday.

This represents the return of 320,000 students to school. From 15 March, the rest of primary school students will return, as well as fifth-year students in secondary schools.

All other classes at secondary level are to return after the Easter break on 12 April.

In an open letter released this afternoon, Dr Glynn stressed that the reopening of schools cannot be interpreted as allowing for other gatherings of people, such as at the school gates or for play dates. Glynn wrote:

“NPHET’s most significant concern is that it will be taken as a signal by parents and wider society that other forms of household mixing, and mobility are now acceptable.

“We cannot afford for this to happen at this time,” he said, emphaising again that Covid-19 is still circulating at high levels in our communities.

Please avoid congregating at school gates over the coming weeks. Please do not have play dates or organise after school activities which involve household mixing.

Glynn also said that people should keep working from home, even though their children may be going back to school. This was “essential” to ensure that children will get back to school “and then stay back in school”.

Glynn thanked teachers, principals and school staff who have worked “so hard” to ensure measures have been put in place to limit the risk of spread of Covid-19 in schools.

“It has been this kind of work, done quietly and by the majority, which has underpinned our national response to Covid-19 and which, ultimately, will see us through to brighter days ahead,” he said.

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The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) warned at the beginning of January that the re-opening of schools at the time could lead to increased levels of Covid-19 transmission due to higher socialisation associated with going to and from school.

Teachers and NPHET members have expressed concerns about what the more transmissable B117 Covid-19 variant will mean for transmission in schools. 

Ronan Glynn said last week that public health experts will “monitor the entirety of the situation” as schools return; Minister for Education Norma Foley re-emphasised that each phase of the return of schools will be monitored.

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