News – UK – Students with special needs in mainstream schools are returning to class today





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Professor Philip Nolan, Chair of the Nphet Irish Epidemiological Modeling Advisory Group Photo: Stephen Collins / Collins Photos

Senan Molony

Students with special needs attending elementary and secondary schools will return to classes today as the gradual reopening of schools continues

In the meantime, special schools that have been running since 11 February are half full, reopened next Monday, with all students attending a full five-day week

The gradual reopening of the schools will continue next Monday for Leaving Cert students as well as for toddlers, seniors, first and second grades in elementary school

The remaining elementary school students are expected to return in the following weeks, however, it’s unclear when the rest of the second grade students will return, but many may wait until after the Easter break

It is understood that the school reopening guidelines for next week won’t place a major emphasis on ventilation – despite international recommendations that highly transmissible Covid-19 variants mean windows should be open >

The Department of Education disagreed last night with a senior government source who said there would be an emphasis on ventilation “even if it means the children and the teacher must wear their coats to class”

However, a spokeswoman for Education Minister Norma Foley said: “The guidelines have not yet been finalized and are still being discussed with stakeholders. They will be issued after the cabinet”

There has been a dispute between the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) and the department over the alleged need for more ventilation A group of experts has now been appointed to deliberate on the matter. The school ventilation recommendation remains “unchanged” from last November – ahead of the advent of the more transferable British variant, as well as the advent of the Brazilian and South African variants. However, the Minister’s spokesman said yesterday evening: ” We will always seek the best public health advice ”

“If possible, buildings should have clean, natural ventilation (opening windows) without circulating the air,” it says

Nphet discussed the updated ventilation guidelines that were created by the Health Protection Surveillance Center just last month However, since then they have been referred to an expert group for review

A senior Irish scientist said last night: “Schools have recognized the importance of ventilation – but they can always do better

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The government hopes the limited reopening of schools will go well for other classes to return, and returns will be closely monitored, with school inspections being carried out

The Covid Cabinet Subcommittee meets today to hear final advice from the Nphet before a revised plan for living with Covid goes to Cabinet tomorrow

The Taoiseach will then reach out to the nation emphasizing the need to remain strong as the vaccine rollout continues

The mandatory “red list” of hotel quarantine in 20 countries will be discussed before laws are introduced in the Dáil this week

Meanwhile, cabinet sources said the revised Covid plan would not provide target dates for easing controls or reopening certain areas of the economy

“The current restrictions apply until Easter (4th April) and a review will then take place ”

In the meantime, according to Prof Philip Nolan of Nphet April be before new cases drop below 100 a day

He said progress in suppressing the virus has slowed, mainly due to the dominance of the more communicable UK variant




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News – UK – Students with special needs in mainstream schools are returning to class today
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