Over 300,000 children are today returning to school for the first time this year.
The first four years of primary school students are returning this morning along with this year’s Leaving Cert class.
Special schools are also returning to full capacity.
The reopening is expected to continue on a phased basis over the next six weeks – with the last classes returning after the Easter holidays.
The Minister of State for Special Education Josepha Madigan told Newstalk that those dates could change if COVID cases rise.
“It is going to be largely dependent on how each phase turns out,” she said.
“So, it is really going to be dependent on how everybody works together so parents and staff and the pupils themselves also have to make sure they adhere much more carefully than they have in the past.
“That is not to say now that schools re not safe environments because they are safe environments once the infection control measures are in place.”
She urged parents not to congregate at school gates this morning.
“If you can just drop your child off as near as possible to the school but then leave immediately,” she said,
“It is terrible to say that; I know a lot of parents like to meet for a coffee, have a chat and catch up but this isn’t the time to do it.
“We really don’t want to jeopardise what is being rolled out at present because it is a long time coming to get these children back and we really want them to stay.”
Back to school
Children have not been back to school since they closed their doors for the Christmas holidays – with 33 days of in-school teaching lost since then.
In a statement, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) called for “vigilance” this morning, noting that it is “absolutely imperative” that all school follow that health and safety measures in the coming weeks.
TUI General Secretary Michael Gillespie said the public health situation in schools must be kept “under constant and forensic review” and urged everyone involved to follow the guidelines to the letter.
“Tracking and tracing measures must be robust and fit for purpose, while any member of the school community - staff or student - who has symptoms of COVID-19 or is a close contact of a confirmed case must stay at home,” he said.
Teachers and school staff who are pregnant or deemed high-risk will continue working from home in the short term.