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How will school pods and 'class bubbles' work?

The aim is that if a student contracts the virus, then only their pod or classroom would have to be sent home to self-isolate.

AS PART OF the government’s €376 million plan to reopen schools at the end of next month, students and teachers are being asked to be divided into ‘pods’ and ‘bubbles’.

Although a great emphasis will still be placed on handwashing, respiratory etiquette, and physical distancing, pods are meant to limit the spread of the virus if it does enter a school. 

Schools are also being asked to move furniture around in the classroom in order to maximize physical distancing, and although children and teachers won’t be obliged to wear face coverings, they can do so in areas where they cannot socially distance.

The advice in the school guidance is that teachers and students should be a minimum of 1 metre apart, and where possible, stay 2 metres apart.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today, Foley said that social distancing won’t be a public-health requirement for younger children, but older children will be expected to comply.

The public health advice actually acknowledges particularly for the younger children, that social distancing is not a prerequisite. But it can and will be sustained in the more senior classes.

Pods and bubbles

layout Source: Department of Education

In the government’s guidance, it says that implementing ‘Class Bubbles’ and ‘Pods’ within those bubbles may reduce the risk of infection. This would also hopefully mean that if a student contracts the virus, then only that pod or classroom would have to be sent home to self-isolate, instead of the entire school. 

A ‘Class Bubble’ is a class grouping that “stays apart from other classes as much as
possible”. ‘Pods’ are groups within those class bubbles, and should be kept as small as possible.

If the class is divided into Pods, there should be at least 1m distance between individual Pods within the Class Bubble, according to the Department of Education’s plan.

It states:

Generally speaking the objective is to limit contact and sharing of common facilities between people in different Class Bubbles (and Pods within those Class Bubbles) as much as possible, rather than to avoid all contact between Pods, as the latter will not always be possible.

The aim of this system is that classes only with their own class for the entire school day. The Pods within Class Bubbles is an additional measure, to limit the extent of close contact within the Class Bubble. 

The Department also says, “to the greatest extent possible”, pupils and teaching staff should consistently be in the same Class Bubbles.

It also states that breaks and meal times should be staggered according to Class Bubbles.

Different Class Bubbles should, where possible, have separate breaks and meal times or separate areas at break or meal times (or this could be different class years ie, 2nd class, 3rd class etc.)

Sharing educational material between Pods should be avoided or minimised where
possible, and staff members who move from class bubble to class bubble should be limited as much as possible.

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The Education Minister 

When asked by a reporter at a post-Cabinet briefing last night how students would respond to the stringent rules, Education Minister Norma Foley said: “I don’t for one minute underestimate the capacity or the good will of students to do what needs to be done, and include younger students in that”.

Foley also said last night that that there would be additional supervision as part of the school reopening plan.

Children are extremely resilient, they’re very quick to learn what must be done, and I have every confidence that schools and parents and community, it will be an entire buy-in from everyone to make schools as operational as they need to be, I have every confidence that there will be goodwill from all.

“Those working within the school community are the most innovative I know, they know exactly what work needs to be done to ready their schools, and I have every confidence in the ability of the school community to carry that out”.

You can read the government’s plan for reopening schools here.

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