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Government to reopen primary and secondary schools at the end of August

It may not be possible for all students to attend class every day, Varadkar said today.

Image: PA Images

THE CURRENT GOVERNMENT plan will see schools open at the end of August to begin the new school year, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said. 

Addressing reporters following a meeting of Cabinet today, Varadkar said that the plan to reopen is “not a no-risk scenario but a low risk scenario”. 

He said that while it is planned for schools to open in August, all students may not be able to attend school every day.

The Taoiseach added it will be “as close to normal as possible”. 

The reopening of primary and secondary schools as planned will be contingent on how Covid-19 is spreading within the community at that point. 

He said: “We are also learning from countries that have had to reimpose restrictions. There have been outbreaks in schools in France and several schools in South Korea had to close due to outbreaks.

“It might mean that not every student is able to return to school but we will try to ensure it is as normal as possible.”

“Provided the virus does not make a comeback between now and then, primary and secondary schools will reopen at the end of August.

“It may not be possible for every student to return for the full day, every day, but that is the point we are trying to get to, so it may be necessary to phase in the reopening of schools, but our objective is to open them as fully and as soon as possible provided the virus does not make a comeback,” he said.

When asked if the 2 metre social distancing rule will be reduced by the time children return to school in August, the Taoiseach said at the moment, it’s still too early to talk about whether schools would have to abide by 2 metre social distancing guidelines. 

He said the numbers in relation to Covid-19 would have to imporved for the government to change their guidance on it.

Varadkar said that in his view, 2 metres is safer than 1.5 metres. “It is not safe to change that guidance now”.

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Yesterday, Education Minister Joe McHugh said that a “half return” to school in September would be needed if a 2m social distancing rule was in force.

He said that he would be against this partial return, and he didn’t want to see children have to wear facemasks at school.

The Taoiseach’s comments come after the publication of a report by public health experts from the Health Service Executive which found that schools are not a high-risk setting for the transmission of Covid-19. 

On 12 March in a landmark speech from Washington DC, Varadkar announced that schools and colleges around the country had been ordered to close. 

Since their closure, the Leaving Certificate examinations for this year were cancelled and a system of predictive grades implemented. Students will have an option to resit the exams at a later date. 

With reporting by Christina Finn

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