Two-fifths of primary schools in Ireland fear they may have insufficient staff to fully reopen this week.
That’s according to the Irish Primary Principals Network which says many schools are struggling to source substitute teachers, as covid-related absences grow.
And with less than 24 hours before classes resume, many principals are facing a staffing shortage.
A survey by the IPPN shows 8 percent of schools will be down half their staff and President Brian O’Doherty says principles are considering their options:
"To keep classes open, schools will have to redeploy our special education teachers to cover absence of mainstream class teachers."
Despite the reality, Minister for Education Norma Foley still says special classes should be prioritized, along with younger, and exam classes, with the Omicron variant now accounting for 95% of all cases in the country.
Teachers across the country are calling for staggered reopening, with the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland expressing its 'dismay' at the lack of progress on school safety.
It says measures that should have been put in place at the beginning of the pandemic, including the need for medical-grade masks, and proper ventilation in what they are calling 'overcrowded' classrooms, still haven't been put in place.
But according to the President of the National Parents Council Aine Lynch, getting as many children back in the classroom should be every school’s priority:
"School is about so much more than just missing out on education, so I think the main concerns parts have are around their children's education and other benefits of schooling."
The IPPN also says they expect significant outbreaks in schools this term and they need greater access to control measures to deal with the issue.
Meanwhile, Covid has shined a spotlight on the shortage of staff in the education sector, according to a Carlow creche owner.
Eleanor Peters is the owner of Play Together, a creche and pre-school in Carlow which saw only 5 of her 24 staff available to work this week.
Speaking to Beat News, she says relief staff from outside the education and childcare sector would be a big help: