SPECIAL schools will reopen on Thursday February 11 and classes in mainstream schools for pupils with special needs will reopen on Monday February 22.
A supplementary in-person care and educational support programme will also commence from February 11 for four weeks.
The agreement was reached this evening by the Department of Education, Fórsa, and the INTO.
The Minister for Education Norma Foley TD said:
“Learning remotely is particularly hard for these children. I am acutely conscious that the loss of the regular school routine, social interaction with friends, direct face to face access to teachers and special needs assistants as well as therapy interventions have presented a huge challenge and a real risk of regression to the learning, social, emotional development and wellbeing of these pupils,” she said.
INTO President Mary Magner welcomed the announcement.
“The protocols and plans set out by the Department of Education offer a proportionate and limited reopening of special education provision, led by public health advice.
“They provide critical protections for our members and deliver a carefully planned, phased return to the classroom for our most vulnerable pupils and their teachers. We will continue to monitor the situation on the ground closely both ahead of the reopening and thereafter, to ensure that the weekly testing and tracing reports back up NPHET’s conclusions,” she said.
Ms Magner hopes the general re-opening of all primary schools can occur in the coming weeks.
“Over the coming weeks, our attention will turn to the general reopening of all primary schools. By working closely together classroom learning can resume in safer schools,” she added.
The news comes as the Cabinet sub-committee on Education meets to discuss exams, schools reopening, and childcare.
The Government is now aiming to make a decision on the exams in the next few days or at the latest, early next week.