Parents and teachers have expressed concern about rising Covid-19 case numbers as schools returned after the Christmas break today.

There were more outbreaks associated with school pupils and staff in the second half of last year than in any other public setting.

At St Killian's National School in Mullagh Co Cavan, parents and students were glad to be back - although some were anxious about the rising Covid-19 case numbers.

Principal Ronan Mac Namara said a number of staff were absent due to the virus but the situation is manageable at the school.

"I've five staff absent today, four teachers and a SNA but we’ve 24 teachers so that’s manageable" he explained.

"We have to be flexible, and we all have to expect to do different things" he added.

Around 35% of students were absent at the school today and Mr Mac Namara believes there is a lot of anxiety and concern out there.

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"I can understand why children might be anxious about coming back but I expect to see more students return on Monday. We have to get them all back to school " he added.

At St Patrick’s National School in Castletara, which is more than 30 kilometres away, there were six teachers and three SNAs absent today.

"We are open today. Staff have been really good, it’s all hands on desks and we’ve all the classes open" said principal Declan Maguire.

"It has been a struggle and we would have preferred to have opened Monday, but we’ll get on with what we have to do, and I think that’s what teachers do" he said.

Mr Maguire said he was glad that HEPA filters had been installed in every classroom ensuring safety for all students attending school.

At Kildare Town Community School, principal John Hayes confirmed that 200 of the schools almost 1000 students were absent today.

Twenty-two of the school’s 74 teaching staff and 14 SNAs were also absent.

However, he said every effort is being made to ensure the school stays open.

"We have contingencies in place to keep the school open. It’s a challenge with many complexities but it’s important we worth together with the students, the parents and with the school with the best interest for learning for the students," said Mr Hayes.