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Parents face choice between sun holidays and school

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Reopening classrooms will take a ‘community effort’, principals said

Reopening classrooms will take a ‘community effort’, principals said

Reopening classrooms will take a ‘community effort’, principals said

Parents tempted by a foreign holiday may be putting their child's chances of going back to school in late August or early September at risk.

Families planning a late break in the sun after months of lockdown will have to think of how it may jeopardise children's return to the classroom, principals have warned.

The current public health guidance is to avoid non-essential international travel and anyone arriving in Ireland, including residents, must self-isolate for 14 days.

The Cabinet is working on a "green list" of countries that may open for non-essential travel, but it has delayed publishing that until July 20 at the earliest after a surge in Covid-19 cases linked to international travel.

If restrictions are eased after July 20, it could trigger an exodus of sun-seeking holidaymakers. While returning travellers from "green list" countries may not have to quarantine for 14 days, foreign travel may still be deemed to be riskier than staying at home

The trade-off was spelled out by post-primary principals' leader Alan Mongey, who told the Oireachtas Coivd-19 Committee that reopening schools will "take a community effort".

"If parents want students returning to school in September, then heading off on a foreign holiday to Portugal or Spain will present significant challenges to schools accepting those students in September," he added.

Logistical

Mr Mongey, president of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD), said they were aiming for a "full return" of schools in late August or early September.

The NAPD president and Irish Primary Principals Network (IPPN) chief executive Pairic Clerkin outlined to the committee the enormous logistical and public health challenges they face in reopening schools safely.

It includes extra funding for cleaning and health and safety supplies, as well as additional staffing support to oversee the implementation of health rules, and substitute teachers and special needs assistants (SNAs) to cover absences.

Mr Clerkin said the reopening of schools was "doable" provided they received the necessary resources.

Among the key issues for the IPPN is a national panel of substitute teachers.

"We can't have a classroom without a teacher. At the moment we have a situation were the first day of absence is not covered. We must have a panel that we can call on," he said.

Mr Clerkin said schools also needed a panel of substitute SNAs. It would avoid a situation where schools had to seek individual vetting of each SNA.

Mr Clerkin said the interim reopening guidelines were a work in progress and there were many issues on which they needed further clarity.