The head of the Irish National Teachers Organisation, John Boyle, has said that his union has not yet had any discussions with the Department of Education and Skills about the possibility of schools reopening before the end of the current academic year.
“We would want to make sure that protections are in place for the students, parents and teachers - we still have 10 weeks to go in this school year, so I think it is feasible if the public health advice recommends that primary schools would be back at some stage in June,” he told RTÉ radio’s Today with Séan O’Rourke show.
“It's a huge decision, we haven't had any discussions with the Department of Education and Skills about this as of yet, whereas I know post primary unions have been speaking to the department regularly since last week about the exams.
“We would want to make sure that we would go into a working group with the department, it would be very different in different schools. Small rural schools, they would have their own challenges with transport and also with maybe having four or five classes in the one classroom.
“The school where I was principal until recently, we had 1,600 children there with most of the parents congregating in the mornings.”
Mr Boyle pointed out that most classrooms measure up to 60 square metres squared. In that space “you have maybe one or two adults, if you have a SNA and if you have 15 children that would barely give them four square metres around them, two metres between each child.
“With junior infants it would be very difficult for them to be able to work that out, so we would definitely need to be coming back on an orderly phased basis, we would want to make sure that the teachers would have an opportunity to meet all of their students, but they couldn't be teaching 15 students in their homes, and also teaching 15 children in the classroom, at the same time.
“We would want to work with whatever advice is forthcoming, we'd want to plan it out appropriately, if a school opened for the morning for half the class, that half would go home rather than go to the playground and then the next half would come in after there would be a deep clean of the school.
“All of these type of issues could not be organised over a weekend - the schools are closed, the teachers are working hard until the 5th of May.
“I would sincerely hope that towards the end of April or early May that there wouldn't be a decision made for an immediate opening schools, I would hope that the department would continue to work with the teachers' representatives and that we would plan this is an orderly reopening at the appropriate time.”
On the same programme, Deirdre McDonald of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland said they will take advice from NPHET, “they are the ones who specialise in this, whatever they think is appropriate we will work to act with them.
“Our members have committed to supporting our students. All we can work with is the proposals we have. Should one academic year run into the next, we would look for a break before the next academic year starts. This is all crystal ball gazing. We have committed to supporting our Leaving Cert students.”
Ms McDonald added that her members “will not be looking for extra money.”
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