The happiness to be back trumped return-to school anxieties as 320,000 students re-entered classrooms this morning.
“It was lovely to see them all come in,” said Teresa Coughlin, principal of Scoil Cliodhna, a primary school in Carrigtwohill, Cork.
“We were afraid there would be a few children who were a bit anxious. But in general, they were just delighted to get back, and I’d say the parents were just as excited as well.”
The majority of the developing school's students returned on Monday, with just two classes due to return on March 15.
"Fingers crossed, another two weeks, we have them all here.”
"There is anxiety, of course, but I think most people are happy to see some return to normal.”
There's obviously going to be anxiety about the impact of the new variant, she added.
"But I don't think any of our staff would prefer to be at home, I think everyone is eager to get back on-site."
The school dealt with its first Covid case last term very early on, she explained.
"It made things nearly easier because we realised we could deal with it. It was dealt with so quickly by the HSE and the school community was amazing.
"That was our worst fear when we started back in September, but once we had the case and it didn't spread in the school, it gave us a lot of comfort.
"School is about so much more than academic progress. We can do the work at home but what children actually need is the social interaction. They need to see each other and be with their teachers. It's about building up their confidence, teaching them about kindness, that is hard to do remotely."
Nagle Community College had a "clean bill of health" on Monday morning, according to its principal Jim O'Sullivan. The secondary school in Mahon saw sixth-years return to their classrooms.
Shaqeana Page was one such student. "It's very relieving to be back, and exciting as well," she told the.
"To see your friends and to be back in the school environment. We have more support now because we are face-to-face with our teachers. If you have a problem on the spot, you can actually ask them in person."
Another student, Lorenzo Massimo Leone said he enjoyed working from home.
“It was very comfortable, but I understand the necessity of being in school and being able to interact with your teachers.”
"I personally am not worried about the virus, I don't have any particular fears about it," he added.
The next phase of reopening schools, due to take place on March 15, public health permitting, will see third to sixth-class students back to in-person learning, along with fifth-year students.