Despite stubbornly high Covid-19 case numbers, there was relief and optimism among parents at the school gates as most children eased back into their first day back at school.
At St Brigid's National School in Greystones, Co Wicklow, Olga Podhrazska was one of dozens of parents delighted to see her children, Oliver (7) and Mia (9), return to the classroom.
“We are delighted. We’re so happy that schools have reopened,” she said.
“I think the situation with Covid is alright at the moment. Our school is taking all the necessary precautions. They took all the steps last year and they did it very well. So, for now, I don’t have any concerns unless the numbers get very alarming.”
At the Fat Fox cafe close by, Bronwin Murphy (8) was being treated to a celebratory cream cake to mark the return to school. Her mother, Linda Marshall, said she was thrilled that her daughter is able to return to the classroom after 18 months of uncertainty.
“From my own point of view, I am happy for my daughter, I am happy for us as a family. It’s great to have our routine back,” she said.
The closure of schools, she feels, has given many a newfound appreciation for the role of schools and the challenges of home education.
“It was very hard when they were off, went back, and were off again. Every day was a struggle,” she said.
“Initially, we thought, sure, they can go online and I can get on with my work... It was all really, really unsettling. So, I hope now they get a good long run at it. I’d hate it if there was an announcement of further closures in five or six weeks’ time.”
As a former primary school teacher, Ms Marshall feels for teachers who are worried about returning to the classroom.
“I would empathise with teachers a bit. I feel sorry for pregnant teachers who aren’t vaccinated or those who have underlying conditions.”
In general, there was confidence among parents in the safety measures being taken by schools, such as handwashing, social distancing and limiting the mixing of class groups.
“The school has done their job ,” said Wendy McKenzie, a mother of three with children in junior infants, second and sixth class.
“They did everything the last time out and they’re doing the same again, so I am happy enough with that.”
Anja Thomas, a mother of two boys aged six and eight, said the return to structure, routine and seeing their friends was hugely positive.
“I am really happy they are back,” she said. “They need it.”