Many parents, teachers, SNAs, and principals are conflicted about returning to school this term.
None of those who thespoke to wants to see schools closed, but some feel it could be inevitable.
Everyone agrees on the benefits of in-person learning, but many also fear the rapidly changing public health environment.
The Department of Education is building up capacity in the HSE school support teams in preparation for the new term, assigning more school inspectors to help assist public health when there is a positive case linked to a school.
But even so, schools are still going to encounter challenges next term. If the daily cases continue to surge in the month ahead, it’s likely that staffing will cause serious problems for many schools. Likely too are more student absences.
There needs to be a balanced, data-driven approach to reopening this term. That's according to Hugh Cronin, principal of St Catherine's National School in Ballynoe, Co Cork. It's more than education, he believes.
"The amount of stress, anxiety that's on everyone in society at the moment, children need to be able to go into school every day to a stable, secure, and consistent environment," said Mr Cronin.
"The relevant education stakeholders need to sit down with the public health experts and the Department of Education and look at the new situation."
"If that can be done, and the public health experts say we can do it, we need to do it."
A centralised, home learning scheme for children with underlying conditions or for children living with high-risk family members should be developed, he added.
"It's not enough to expect already stretched schools to consistently provide this service to our most vulnerable."
Parents who spoke to this newspaper say they are worried about a return to remote learning. One mother of five children, between six and 15-years-old, said their family “struggled” during the first lockdown.
“It almost broke me and now I am so stressed about the thoughts of returning to the same. We live in rural Ireland, with patchy broadband and two laptops."
Many teachers also said they do not want to see a return to remote learning, but fear it may be on the cards.
Some suggested making the switch now for a few weeks, with lessons to be made up at Easter or summer.
Many teachers who spoke to theare also doubtful about how their school could improve their Covid safety measures any further.
One said: “We want our school to be open."
"That I have found too huge a responsibility to bear, knowing that if and when it happens all of the key decisions will be made by people who have never set foot inside our doors, who don’t know how ill this child’s granny is, or how vulnerable the child in that class really is."
SNAs thespoke to said they believed the situation now is "too risky" as in many cases, social distancing has not been possible.
"I’m housebound since Monday when a close colleague informed me she’d tested positive," one said.