Schools are preparing to introduce ‘breathing breaks’ to allow students go outside and take off their masks for a time.
We visited three schools in Dublin this week to find out how preparations are going for the coming year.
Around 930,000 students are returning to school for the first time since March and, when they do, they will face a very different learning experience.
Kathy Jones, Principal of the Bremore Educate Together school in Balbriggan said students and teachers will have to do all they can to keep each other safe.
“We will have to build in movement breaks and breathing breaks for the students where they can go outside, maybe remove the mask for a little while and go back in,” she said.
“There will be some students that maybe have sensory issues or additional needs and it may not be possible – and for staff as well – to wear the mask all day.
“We will have to be cognisant of that and make sure we put in an allowance to make sure we look after those students.”
Meanwhile, Michael McHugh from O’Connell Secondary School in Drumcondra said teachers are nervous but confident they can make things work.
“We will put everything in place that will make it as feasible as possible to keep children apart as much as possible,” he said.
“Teachers by their nature are innovative people and they will come up with strategies and ways of keeping children apart but again, children by their nature want to play and interact with each other.
“We will be staggering breaks and we will have bubbles and pods in classrooms to keep them apart as much as possible.”
Ringsend College Principal Paul Ryder said he has developed a 40-page document on the return to school that is constantly evolving.
He said one of the biggest challenges will be the extra manpower needed for smaller classes.
“This classroom has 20 desks and they are socially distant,” he said. “Prior to this we would have had 24 to 26 or even 30 in one of our senior classes.