A national school principal says he is 'frantically' looking for substitute teachers to stand in for almost half of his staff who are in Covid-19 related isolation, ahead of Thursday's reopening.
Bryan Collins believes most principals in the Louth and Meath area are "at their wits end" in trying to figure out what to do as it appears over 100 teachers in 39 schools will be absent.
The principal of Scoil Naomh Feichin in Termonfeckin, Co Louth will have at least five of his 11 own class staff out on Thursday as the school prepares to welcome back up to 290 children.
"We are looking forward to starting a new term, but there's a very dark cloud on the horizon.
"Due to the much increased level of transmission of Covid-19 in recent weeks, we are noticing that a large number of primary teachers and SNAs will not be able to return to school this week as they will be required to isolate due to being a confirmed case themselves or a close contact."
Mr Collins is co-ordinator of the north-east branch of the IPPN Primary Principals Networking and Support Group and carried out a quick survey on Tuesday of 39 schools in the Louth/Meath area.
"From the survey, it appears that over100 primary teachers will be absent from school due to Covid-19 on Thursday & Friday this week.
"With the acute shortage of substitute teachers few of these absences will be covered. The question is then, who takes these classes?
"Local principals in the Louth/ Meath area are at their wits end this week trying to figure out what to do in their individual schools."
Mr Collins says his survey shows that 86 classroom teachers, 20 special education teachers, three supply teachers and over 30 special needs assistants cannot come in this week due to Covid-19 isolation guidelines.
"And this number may be increased as numbers grow.
"In our own school in Termonfeckin, five teachers will be unable to return to work this week, and I'm frantically looking for anyone who will agree to act as a sub teacher for a day or two.
"And the scariest thing is that this situation will potentially get far worse once all the kids are back at school as transmission and infection rates will undoubtedly soar. The initial weeks of 2022 are going to be extremely challenging for schools.
Bryan Collins himself has had to teach classes before Christmas for several weeks due to a chronic shortage, anyway of substitute teachers.