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New Covid variants 'do not change' the measures needed in schools, Foley says

The department is planning for a “full reopening” of schools in August/September.

The Taoiseach visiting a classroom last year.
The Taoiseach visiting a classroom last year.
Image: Julien Behal/RollingNews.ie

EDUCATION MINISTER NORMA Foley has said new variants of Covid-19 “do not change” the infection prevention and control measures required in schools and that the department is planning for a “full reopening” of schools in August and September.

Foley brought a memo to Cabinet this morning outlining the plans to support a full reopening of schools after the summer break. 

She outlined that it is not envisaged that schools will be required to take any additional or new actions ahead of reopening, and that the measures in place during the previous school year will be used once more.

Foley said that guidance for schools on good ventilation practices are being updated and that CO2 monitors are being supplied to schools to help with this approach. 

“We are in constant communication with public health specialists ahead of the new school year and we can confirm that we are preparing for a full return of schools in late August and early September,” the minister said after Cabinet today. 

Public Health has stated that the new variants of the disease do not change the infection prevention and control measures required in schools. The evidence available from the operation of schools during Covid-19 to date shows that schools are low risk environments due to the infection prevention and control measures in place.

Foley did say that while no updates will be required of schools ahead of the reopening, Covid-19 response plans are being updated by the department. 

The context for increased concern about the operation of schools from the end of next month is the fourth wave of Covid-19 infections being experienced in Ireland due to the Delta variant of Covid-19. 

The wave is expected to peak next month but politicians have been eager to point out that, in contrast to earlier waves, over two-thirds of adults are now fully vaccinated. 

Following advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC), children in Ireland aged 12 to 15 could also be offered a Covid-19 vaccine as early as next month. 

Ventilation

The Department of Education’s advice to schools on good ventilation practices in schools is available online. 

The advice stresses that the “over-arching approach” is that windows in schools should be “open as fully as possible when classrooms are not in use”. 

Ahead of winter, the guidance notes that windows do not need to be open as wide in windy or colder conditions “to achieve the same level of airflow into the classroom”.

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Rónán Duffy

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