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'Very, very big plan' - Government to unveil school reopening plan today

A planning document from the Department of Education will be brought to the cabinet today.

Image: RollingNews.ie/JULIEN BEHAL PHOTOGRAPHY

THE GOVERNMENT IS expected to reveal plans to reopen all schools across the country today.

A planning document from the Department of Education will be brought to the cabinet today. 

Speaking on This Week yesterday, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said that the plans being made are more about “investing rather than expense”.

“Getting our schools reopen again is fundamental to the wellbeing of children, for supporting families and also indirectly allow our economy to continue to reopen.”

This is going to be a very, very big plan.

As part of the reopening plan extra teachers, cleaning regimes and personal protective equipment will be brought in.

Plans are also being developed to assist schools when it comes to handling a case of Covid-19 in the school.

General Secretary of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) John Boyle said that getting the schools back up and running in just a month is “a very big ask”.

“There’s a lot of work ahead for the next five weeks,” said Boyle, speaking on Morning Ireland.

“The plan is very very detailed and I’m happy that we worked it through and that people will return orderly and safely.”

Boyle does have concerns about the resource package that will be provided to schools, worried that money could run out within a number of weeks. He has asked that the government review the package at the end of September and later again during the budget.

It’s really important that the money that comes in today is reviewed at the end of September and if there’s a budget in October that we have a look at it to make sure that schools will stay open every single day from now until June next year.

Labour’s education spokesperson Aodhán Ó’Ríordáin agreed with Boyle, questioning the timeline of unveiling the plans, saying it isn’t giving school staff enough time to prepare.

“We have left principals with a huge amount to do and only four weeks to do it,” said Ó’Ríordáin.

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Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Education has said that the reopening plans must be definitive and comprehensive. 

“Parents, students, teachers, support staff and transport operators are, right now, completely in the dark as to what is happening to ensure all of these needs are met,” said Ó Laoghaire. 

Speaking to RTÉ’s Today with Sarah McInerney, school principal Colm O’Rourke said social distancing in schools is “a non-runner” but said schools “must get on with it as best we can”. 

Head of Mary Mother of Hope Senior School in Castaheany in Dublin, Enda McGorman, told the programme that the timescale for implementing additional public health measures is “so tight”. 

“I think we’re long past talking about what in theory this might look like. Five weeks out we need absolute clarity. I want to see the detail so we can get to work straight away,” he said. 

-Additional reporting from PA

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