It may be mid-April before all Tayside and Fife pupils return to school under the phased return mapped out by the Scottish Government.
The government hopes to get P4 to P7 pupils and some more senior phase students back in class from March 15 and all secondary pupils from April 5.
However, unless the Easter holidays are altered this would mean youngsters in Dundee, Angus and Perthshire returning to secondary schools on April 19 and to Fife high schools on April 12.
Most schoolchildren have been learning from home since the start of this term on January 11, with schools closed to all but key workers’ children and vulnerable children to help supress coronavirus transmission.
If the emergence from lockdown goes as set out by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday, it will mean many have missed almost 12 weeks in school.
Nursery and P1 to P3 pupils returned on Monday, in the first phase of schools reopening fully, along with a few senior secondary pupils who need to attend for practical coursework.
The government has already said the impact of this first step will be closely monitored before it is confirmed as safe for the next groups of children and young people to get back to class.
Addressing the Scottish Parliament on the easing of lockdown restrictions, Ms Sturgeon said the immediate priority was the return of schools and the next phase would “indicatively” be from March 15.
She said: “We hope that this will include the next phase of school return – which will start with the rest of the primary school years, 4 to 7, and also getting more senior phase secondary pupils back in the classroom for at least part of their learning.”
At least three weeks after that, it is hoped that the stay at home restriction will be lifted and Ms Sturgeon said: “We would aim for any final phase of school return to take place on this date [from April 5].”
More details of the next phases is to be given next week.
Asked by Conservative education spokesman Jamie Greene whether holidays would be altered to allow pupils to return from April 5, Ms Sturgeon replied: “We will continue to consider how all this fits with Easter holidays but suffice to say we want to get every young person back into face-to-face education as quickly as possible.”
One independent Perthshire school has already indicated it is shifting its holidays to allow pupils back to class sooner.
Kilgraston School head teacher Dorothy MacGinty said: “In light of today’s FM statement, Kilgraston School has decided to finish four days earlier before Easter holidays and return five days earlier – removing an inset day to give over to teaching – to allow maximum face-to-face teaching.”
While parents of primary school children will welcome the anticipated return in just under three weeks, there will be anxiety at several more weeks of home learning for older children.
Parents group UsForThem Scotland claimed the “appalling decision” left Scottish secondary school pupils “on the scrapheap” while contemporaries in England go back on March 8.
Organiser Jo Bisset said: “Despite all the warnings and the evidence about harm being caused to young people through schools being closed, still the First Minister won’t listen.
“Her government is very deliberately choosing a course of action that will wreck their education and obliterate the formative years of their lives.
“Parents have been patient to this point, but those with children above primary school will be utterly furious at this.”
Support The Courier today.
The Courier is committed to delivering quality content to our communities and right now that’s more important than ever — which is why our key content is free. However, you can support us and access premium content by subscribing to The Courier from just £5.99 a month. Because Local Matters.Subscribe