Yes, as it stands. It’s worth remembering schools remained open throughout September to December last year, operating throughout level 5 restrictions, while the rest of society remained largely closed.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Education told thethat further periods of school closures are not expected, in line with the reopening of the rest of society and due to the ongoing successful rollout of the vaccine programme.
But there is a fear of a possible repeat in the coming weeks of what happened in January the last time schools closed, amid a massive spike in cases due to a new variant and the loosening of restrictions too quickly.
Delta is again more contagious than the UK variant we saw at the beginning of the year but now the impact of vaccines is being seen on the number of deaths related to the virus.
Last month, Nphet warned Government that a high level of transmission due to the Delta variant could have a "significant impact" on the reopening of schools and colleges in September. The reopening of indoor dining was postponed but the effect this will have on new daily cases of the virus has yet to be seen.
On Monday, teaching unions said their members would return to classrooms in August and September if that is in accordance with public health advice.
Schools have been advised to continue to operate with the same infection prevention and control measures as last year, mainly physical distancing, face masks for post-primary students and teachers, and a focus on hygiene and minimising congregation.
According to the Department of Education, public health has advised it that the new variants of the disease do not change the infection prevention measures required. “Public health advice is that compliance with these measures ensure that schools remain a low risk for children and staff.”
What's different this year?
No major changes are expected, but this year there will be a focus on ventilation. Schools will be provided with C02 monitors, to be distributed throughout August and September. Primary schools will receive between two and 20 of the devices, and post-primary schools will receive between 20 and 35, depending on school size.
The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) is soon to issue the Government with its advice on vaccinating 12- to 15-year-olds. The HSE portal allowing all 16- to 17-year-olds to sign up for a vaccination should open shortly.