The Department of Education is planning for a phased re-opening of schools from March 1, the Education Minister will tell Cabinet today.
Norma Foley is expected to brief her ministerial colleagues that school reopening will not happen next week as had been reported over the weekend, with students returning in phases throughout the month of March.
Leaving Cert students and those with additional needs will be the first to return, it is understood. However, talks with unions to finalise the agreement are still ongoing, sources said. They added that nothing has been agreed just yet.
Ms Foley is also expected to update ministers on the Leaving Certificate exams. It is understood that students will be offered the choice of written exams or calculated grades.
The Taoiseach said that there would be clarity on the issue this week. He told reporters at Government Buildings that a decision would be forthcoming after "intensive talks".
"The students of Ireland require that. It's been a very stressful and anxious time for students and for the education world in general because Covid-19 has upturned all of our lives, particularly young people's lives and particularly in the context of education.
"So I think it's very, very important that all involved in the talks do everything they can to bring clarity now to the situation for students in terms of the Leaving Certificate class of 2021."
Opposition parties have called for urgent clarification on the re-opening of schools.
The Labour party called on the Government to go with a calculated grades system for Leaving Certificate students again this year.
The party's education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Riordáin said the education minister had promised that an independent review of last years predicted grading system would be carried out, however, this has not happened.
"It's a great disappointment for those students who are anxiously listening to every news report and every utterance from every minister to see if they will finally get some certainty," he said.
Mr Ó Ríordáin said it was particularly disappointing that there has been "no mention" of the Junior Cert and what will happen those due to sit this exam this year.
A decision on the re-opening of schools and the Leaving Cert exams must now be made, he said.
He added: "We have to listen to every single entity that's involved in the conversation."
Social Democrats education spokesperson Gary Gannon said finality must now be brought to talks between teaching unions and the Department of Education on the Leaving Certificate exams.
However, he added that "we have all been let down by dates" in the past and said it might be better to release a plan to re-open schools based on metrics and the level of the virus in the community.
He said a taskforce now must be set up to address the trauma and anxiety that has been experienced by young people over the last year.