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Schools prepare to reopen

LOCAL schools and students throughout Tyrone are preparing to make a return to the ‘new normal’ of school life.

Education Minister Peter Weir has said he wants all schools to return to more normal patterns of operation and attendance from the week beginning August 31.

The Minister also confirmed that schools will reopen for staff from next week and for key groups of pupils from August 24.

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St Ciaran’s College in Dungannon is preparing to welcome back Year 12 and Year 14 students on Monday August 24, and a letter outlining more details will sent out to students soon.

Holy Cross in Strabane is currently finalising reopening details. A post on the school’s Facebook read, “Restart arrangements will be posted out in a letter to each parent/student as soon as final arrangements are in place.

“Parents should go ahead and purchase the uniform as usual.”

The return to school will be on a full-time basis of five days a week for every pupil, including those who attend Special Schools.

Protective bubbles will be used as a key measure in helping to limit the number of different interactions between groups while enhanced hygiene and cleaning measures will remain vital in schools.

The Minister said that effective processes for managing local outbreaks, including the Public Health Agency’s test, trace, protect programme, are essential measures to allow a full reopening of schools.

Revised guidance will outline the key measures that will be put in place to ensure the safety of all pupils and staff.

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The Minister said, “This represents another step forward for our education settings. 

“However, we are still operating in a pandemic and everyone has a vital role to play in ensuring that hygiene and public health measures are adhered to by all to allow our children and young people a safe return to education.   

“The revised guidance will allow schools to operate on a basis where the requirement for strict social distancing between pupils in school and on dedicated home to school transport is maintained where possible, while acknowledging that in some circumstances this is not practical.  In those circumstances a range of key risk mitigations will be implemented. 

Concluding, the Minister said: “I am confident that our school leaders and staff will rise to the challenge and ensure all pupils can return safely to education full-time but we cannot be complacent. 

“Covid-19 is still in our communities and we need parents, pupils and wider society to be vigilant and act responsibly within the overarching public health guidelines. Parents if your children have symptoms please keep them at home and arrange a test,” said Mr Weir.

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