Schools are to remain closed indefinitely but no decision has been taken in relation to the State written exams in June.
The Leaving Cert and Junior Cycle exams are still scheduled to go ahead as normal, but that could change, depending on the spread of Covid-19 in the community.
Education Minister Joe McHugh confirmed the extended closure today ahead of the Government’s announcement about other restrictive measures.
In relation to the exams, the minister said they wanted to make them happen but they would be influenced public health officials.
Speaking on Galway Bay FM today, the minister said: “My commitment to the students… who are maybe having their breakfast this morning and maybe getting ready to study and really, really putting in such an effort, my commitment to them, and the department’s commitment is, we want to make those exams happen.
“Obviously we are going to be influenced and directed by the health experts. We don’t know where we are going to be in terms of the peak of this virus,” he said.
“I think we owe it to those young people who are studying and putting in the effort to see this through to try to have these exams this year. When I say this year, I mean the dates that are defined for this year. That’s what we are working towards.”
The very earliest now that schools will re-open is Monday April 20, the official start date after the Easter break, but it could be later.
In the worst case scenario, schools would not return until end of August/ September, more than five months after closing their doors on March 12.
The extended shutdown leaves little time for post-primary schools, which wrap up by the end of May anyway, to resume in a meaningful way in the current academic year.
The primary school year continues to the end of June, so that offers more latitude for a resumption of classes at the country’s 3,000 primary schools, if circumstances allow.
While the orals and practicals, which were due to start his week, have been cancelled, running the written exams is now the top priority of the Department of Education.
Mr McHugh said they wanted to make them happen but they would be influenced public health officials. However, if it is too problematic to run all the exams, the Leaving Cert will get priority.
Some 126,000 students are entered for the June exams – 61,053 due to sit the Leaving Cert and 65,190 at Junior Cycle level.