Schools in the North of Ireland are due to open again next Monday, November 2, following an extended mid-term break aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19.
A number of schools in Derry reported cases of Coronavirus earlier this month as infections in the city started to rise.
Thornhill College had to close from Monday, October 12, for a deep clean after it saw a spike in Covid-19 cases.
The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) has said that keeping schools open for learning must be a priority for government and wider society.
Chief executive Gerry Campbell said the council was extremely concerned about both the impact on young people and the longer-term effects that the crisis would have on pupils.
“We all need to play our part in adhering to public health guidance and regulations to help to create a safe environment that will enable and facilitate schools to remain open on a continuing basis,” Mr Campbell said.
“Schools are at the heart of society. As well as places of learning, they are centres of support, care, friendship, personal development and growth.
“Keeping our schools open for learning must be a priority for government and wider society.
“We must support our young people’s emotional and mental health and wellbeing.”
Mr Campbell added: “We each have a role to play in managing this pandemic so that school leaders and their staff can be allowed to focus on the needs and aspirations of their pupils, despite the challenge of Covid-19.
“As we progress into the coming months, the challenges for our schools will become more complex.
“Our schools need a clear pathway that will support them and minimise the longer-term impacts on the educational progression and wellbeing of our young people as we all work through the remainder of this pandemic.”
Graham Gault, president of the National Association of Head Teachers (NI) said all must be done to support principals in the reopening of schools next week.
Mr Gault added: “I am very grateful to CCMS for recognising the enormous strain that this pandemic has added to the already very challenging circumstances of school leaders.
“And this is true of school leaders across all of our sectors.
“Given the very significant additional burden of contact tracing, it is essential that principals are given the space to manage the critical business at hand with no other distractions or requirements being added by other bodies within education,” he said.
Both the Education Minister Peter Weir and the local Children’s Commissioner Koulla Yiasouma have opposed any move to extend school closures here beyond two weeks.
Last week Mr Weir revealed that 1,491 positive cases of coronavirus have been recorded in Northern Ireland schools between August 24 and October 14 – which includes teachers, staff and students.
Mr Weir said there had been little evidence that schools were significantly contributing to rising Covid-19 numbers.
Ms Yiasouma added: “I can see no reason why this or any future school break should be extended for any length of time.
“If the issue in relation to schools is outside the school gates, we must tackle that without disrupting our children’s education and we must also get smarter at dealing with identified cases of Covid in schools.”