Up to 4,000 children with additional educational needs will return to in-person education today as special schools throughout the country reopen their doors.
Under a plan agreed between the Department of Education and teacher and SNA trade unions, 124 special schools will reopen, initially, with 50% of students attending in turn on different days.
They will be joined in their classrooms by up to 4,000 teachers and Special Needs Assistants.
The schools cater for more than 8,000 students in total.
Earlier plans to reopen special schools in January collapsed after the Department of Education failed to secure the agreement of trade unions representing SNAs and teachers.
A resolution was subsequently reached following negotiations and agreement of additional supports for schools and workers.
Special classes in mainstream primary and secondary schools are due to reopen on Monday 22 February following a deal signed off on last night between post-primary teacher unions, the ASTI and the TUI, and Fórsa which represents SNAs.
More than 10,000 students with additional educational needs attend special classes at either primary or post-primary level.
Commenting on today’s reopening, the National Association of Boards of Management in Special Education said special schools were ready and keen to reopen.
Chairperson Caroline Quinn said, however, that the view among parents was mixed, with some looking for further reassurance before committing to sending their children back.
Others whose children have medical conditions that make them especially vulnerable have opted to keep them at home.