Going back to school can be a different experience for everybody. Some people enjoy getting back into their routine and seeing their school friends, but for others, the idea of returning to school can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. COVID-19 means more students will be anxious about the return to the classroom than usual, and school will be a different experience this year.
Knowing what to expect and what you can do to keep yourself, your classmates and your teachers safe will make it easier to transition back into school.
What to expect when you go back to school
The Government has announced a number of measures that will be in place in the new school year to help keep everyone safe and reduce the spread of the virus.
Social distancing in school
Staff and students in schools will need to do their best to keep their distance from each other. Students will need to be kept at least one metre apart, or two metres wherever possible. This means the layout of your classrooms may look different when you return, and you might not have as much choice around where to sit in your classroom.
Each school is different, and some will find it harder than others to introduce this spacing. This could mean having classes in spaces you normally wouldn’t, such as the P.E. hall, or a town or parish centre.
If it’s not possible to keep a two metre distance from others, staff and students will need to wear face coverings.
Less movement around the school
Schools will need to limit how much students are moving around the school in order to reduce the risk of the virus spreading between students.
This could mean more double classes to keep the same group of students together as much as possible, or you may have to stay in the same place throughout the day, with teachers moving from class to class instead.
This could also have an impact on where you eat your lunch, depending on how it normally works in your school. If there is a shared dining hall or canteen, lunch hours may be staggered to have fewer students in the space at once, or you might have to eat lunch at a desk or in a classroom instead.
Leaving Cert 2021
Students preparing to take the Leaving Cert exams in 2021 will be given a greater choice of questions in their exam papers. This means that students who missed out on parts of the curriculum last year because of school closures should still be able to comfortably answer enough questions on the exam, because they will have more options to choose from.
Avoiding the spread of COVID-19 in school
In addition to practicing social distancing, It will be really important that all staff and students follow good hygiene practices when in school. This means:
- Wash your hands properly with soap and regularly
- If you cannot wash your hands, use hand sanitiser wherever it is available, and wash your hands fully as soon as you can, particularly after being in public places or on public transport
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough and sneeze
- Put used tissues into a bin immediately after use and wash your hands
- Try to avoid touching your eyes nose and mouth
- Wear a face covering when it’s not possible to keep two metres apart
Do I have to wear a face mask in school?
Masks will be mandatory where it is not possible to keep a two metre distance from others. They will also be mandatory on school busses.
What happens if someone in my school has COVID-19?
If you are not feeling well or you are showing any symptoms of COVID-19, it is very important that you stay home from school. Going to school means risking spreading the virus to others.
If someone starts to feel unwell while they’re in school, and they are showing symptoms of COVID-19, they will be given a mask and be brought to an area of the school to isolate before they are sent home. Those who have been in close contact with the person may be contacted by the HSE to arrange testing. Any area where the student spent time will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. The school will assess the situation to decide what to do next.
Getting support for your mental health
Everyone will be getting used to these new changes, so give yourself time to adjust to a new way of doing things and remember you are not on your own. If you are finding it difficult to adjust, it’s okay to ask for support. Reach out to your school guidance counsellor, a teacher, or someone at home and let them know how you’re feeling.
Feeling overwhelmed or want to talk to someone right now?
- Get anonymous support 24/7 with our text message support service
- Connect with a trained volunteer who will listen to you, and help you to move forward feeling better
- Text SPUNOUT to 50808 to begin
- Find out more about our text message support service
Need more information?
Would you like more information? Maybe you would like to talk through your own situation? Get in touch through our online chat system for 16 to 25 year olds – Monday to Friday 4pm to 8pm.