Labour's education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has said there is 'no point' re-opening schools just to close them again.
He was speaking following reports that primary and secondary schools are likely to open on a phased basis over a three-week period in March, according to The Irish Times.
Deputy Ó Ríordáin told Newstalk Breakfast: "Everybody wants the schools to go back - I want the schools to go back - school closure is profoundly damaging for children and for young people.
"However there's no point in opening up schools if we close them again a few weeks afterwards."
He said the real issue is down to suppression of the coronavirus.
"We have to be very serious about what the real issue here is: [it's] not people on either side of tables in the Department of Education, it's actually the virus.
"The more that we suppress the virus.... the more chance we have of keeping schools open.
"And it is difficult to see how we can do that if we have a rolling lockdown-open up-close down scenario".
'We have to have agreement'
He said people in the schools need to know that it is safe.
"We need agreement - and with the best will in the world, you won't be going into classrooms and neither will I - and there are people who will be.
"And these are teachers and SNAs who need to know that it's safe".
"If this is going to be successful and we're going to stay open, then we have to have agreement.
"There is no point in opening up just for the sake of it, and then a few weeks afterwards having to go close down again".
And he suggested the situation has changed since before Christmas when the schools were open.
"We weren't dealing with a different variant, we weren't dealing with the level of infection, we weren't dealing with the level of fatalities - so we have to be real about the difference between pre-Christmas and post-Christmas.
"And we also have to be real about what happens if another variant comes on the scene in April or May.
"So the point is that if we suppress this virus to a successful level, then we can re-open schools in full confidence that we don't have to close them again".
'Families in desperate situations'
Áine Lynch, CEO of the National Parents Council, said mid-March seems a long way away.
"No I don't think it's soon enough - we're currently doing a survey with parents and we're just hearing the desperate situation some families are in.
"We just need schools re-opened as soon as possible, and I think when they hear March and over a three week period it just feels a very long way away for a lot of families".
She said there needs to be a structured plan to keep the schools open.
"I think what parents want is a certainty, not just now but into the future, that the schools will open and stay open.
"And I think what they need to hear is about public health advice".
"I think we need to get to a situation where we're all very clear, based on public health advice, when the schools re-open and how they stay open - not if they stay open, but the plan in place to keep them open.
"I think once schools close it can be very, very difficult to re-open them, as we're experiencing now.
"So I think there needs to be a proper, structured plan in place to re-open them as quickly as possible".