Schools Re-opening: Synopsis of the Key Points

Keyinfo webWith reference to today’s (5th January) communications from the Department of Education and HSE Public Health, we provide below a synopsis of the key points. 

Department Helpline for school principals
For further queries in relation to the information note, please contact the Department’s Helpline 057 9324461. The Helpline will operate from Monday-Friday 08.00-19.00 and Saturday and Sunday 14.00-19.00 during this period. Queries can also be sent by email to covid19_alert@education.gov.ie.

 

HSE live Covid-19 Principal school line
For specific queries relating to confirmed cases of Covid-19 within a school, please continue to use the 'HSE live Covid-19 Principal school line' on (01) 240 8785. The phone number will operate 7 days a week, from 8am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday and from 10am to 4.30pm Saturday and Sunday. The operator will take basic details and provide these directly to the relevant Public Health department. Each Public Health Department will have designated clinical staff to respond to queries that are escalated from the principals’ line to the departments.

Staff absences
Schools should continue to make every effort to obtain a substitute for all teacher absences. Where a school has done so and continues to experience difficulties in sourcing sufficient substitute cover, schools are advised to contact the Department of Education in these circumstances by email covid19_alert@education.gov.ie or telephone 057 9324461 and an Inspector will provide further support. This helpline will operate from Monday-Friday 08.00-19.00 and Saturday and Sunday 14.00-19.00 during this period.

Schools should maximise the provision of in-person teaching and learning for as many students as possible in these circumstances. In all situations the school should as a minimum remain open for in-person teaching for children with special educational needs in both special schools and special classes and for children with special educational needs in mainstream classes. Within other class groups schools should prioritise younger children for in-person teaching as they are less able to adapt to remote teaching and learning. Where it is not possible to make contact in advance, school management may use their discretion but are advised to make contact with the Department as soon as practicable thereafter.

Sequence for covering all teacher absences:
• Supply panel if the school is part of a supply panel cluster arrangement,
• School’s own panel of regular substitutes,
• National substitute service/Sub Seeker
• Student teachers – see Appendix 1 of the Information Note regarding the additional flexible arrangements for students on placement to provide substitute cover,
• Other local arrangements such as the administrative principal/ administrative deputy principal if applicable, or other non-classroom teachers,
• It is also recognised that there may be a substantial number of children absent due to COVID-19 or as a result of being a close contact in household situations and therefore class numbers may be smaller.

Please continue to use Sub Seeker to access available substitute teachers.

Student Teachers
Following a decision of the Teaching Council in December 2021, it is anticipated that student teachers in their 3rd and 4th years of study in primary education course will also be registered with the Teaching Council and they will then be available to carry out substitution without the five-day rule restriction. This will be facilitated by Sub Seeker once registrations are completed by the Teaching Council for these student teachers.

Educationposts.ie - Student Teacher School Support Noticeboard
In the interim, IPPN's Educationposts.ie now has a Student Teacher School Support Noticeboard where 3rd and 4th year student teachers can list their availability. You can view the noticeboard here: https://bit.ly/32Jd5bz

Educationposts.ie also hosts an SNA Substitute Noticeboard here: https://bit.ly/3pWRJ3e


Ventilation
Opening windows fully for a short period at the end of each school day avoids the need to do the same again before the start of classes in the morning and further assists in managing comfort levels in the classroom in the mornings (partially opened windows should enable good ventilation to be achieved when classrooms are occupied).

Ventilation queries/ expertise for schools
A dedicated team has been established in the Department of Education to support schools that may have concerns about ventilation. Contact can be made by email to Schools_Ventilation@education.gov.ie. Where it is not possible for a school to access the expertise of an engineer or architect, and where necessary, a technical assessment to assist the school can be facilitated through the Department.

Funding
Individual schools are best placed to decide on the appropriate measures for their school and have flexibility in this regard. Enhanced Minor Works Grant funding has been provided to schools to support any improvement works, including ventilation improvements where needed. Schools can apply under the Emergency Works Grant Scheme if larger scale ventilation improvement works are required.

Antigen Tests
If there is more than one PCR positive case in a class then antigen tests can be arranged for the entire class. The Antigen Freephone number is: 1800 110055 or parents may order antigen tests online via www.hse.ie/schooltest.

Principals in special school settings should not ask parents to access antigen testing but should continue to be guided by the public health advice received in the specific instance.

IPPN Support
All queries or requests for support should be sent to info@ippn.ie. The Leadership Support Team will respond within 24 hours, Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.

In case of emergency out of hours, email your query to covid@ippn.ie and a member of the IPPN leadership team will endeavour to respond within a few hours.

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