Schools reopening: €350m plan will not require pupils and teachers to wear face masks

Pupils will not be required to wear face masks in class under public health guidelines to be issued to schools this week, it is understood.

While face coverings are not regarded as suitable at primary level, secondary school students will have the option of wearing them if they wish in cases where physical distancing is difficult to maintain.

Similarly, teachers will not be required to wear face masks, as they conceal facial expression and can make communication difficult. However, they may be used in cases where physical distancing is not possible in classrooms or where a teacher is involved in prolonged close contact with pupils.

The recommendations are contained in public health guidance for the State’s 4,000 primary and schools, which will be issued following a Cabinet meeting on Monday.

Minister for Education Norma Foley is due to seek approval at Cabinet for a financial package in excess of €350 million aimed at fully opening all schools on a full-time basis from late August.

Students’ wellbeing

The package is understood to include hundreds of additional teachers and alterations to classrooms, along with administrative supports for principals. In addition, it is expected there will be additional guidance counsellors and psychologists hired to help support students’ wellbeing.

It will include a range of provisions for special education schools, including an enhanced cleaning grant worth about €4 million, and each special school will get a budget for a staff member specifically focused on return to school planning.