NI’s schools have received revised guidance for reopening with “relaxed” social distancing rules and optional face coverings in classrooms.
Education Minister Peter Weir said strict distancing between children “may be relaxed in the presence of other mitigations” such as hygiene measures.
But he said the current distancing guidance of 2m must “continue to be followed between adults” in schools.
Face coverings are “acceptable” but not “recommended for routine use”.
Schools in Northern Ireland closed in late March in a bid to prevent the spread of Covid-19 but are due to reopen on a full-time basis later this month.
Pupils in Primary 7, Year 12, Year 14 and “all vulnerable children” are due to return to school on 24 August.
All other pupils will begin the new school year on the week beginning 31 August.
Details of the revised reopening guidance were reported by BBC News NI on Wednesday but the full document was published by the Department of Education on Thursday.
It said that strict social distancing requirements will be relaxed for all pupils but will remain in place between adults at 2m and “as far as is practicable between pupils and adults”.
The guidance added: “As far as is practicable, social distancing at 2m should be maintained for both children and adults who are not from the same household.”
Mitigations, such as increased hygiene measures, have been suggested with the aim of keeping children safe where social distancing is not thought to be practical.
These include the formation of “protective bubbles” for primary school children and pupils in years 8-10 in post-primary schools.
For older pupils, the guidance recommended that “interactions between different year groups” should be limited.
Regarding face coverings, the document stated that given the mitigations in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19, “face coverings are not generally recommended for routine use in schools”.
However, it added that staff and pupils “may wish to use them during the routine school day and this is acceptable”.
It also said that schools should also be aware that some people are exempt from wearing face coverings.
The guidance for the journey to and from school is different.
The document stated it is “strongly recommended that all pupils, regardless of age, should wear a face covering on all buses, trains or taxis for the journey to school” if it is appropriate in their case.
There are also separate rules for school staff and parents.
Face coverings “must be worn in staff rooms” and during staff meetings lasting more than 15 minutes.
Adults who are visiting school premises must also use face coverings.
In a statement, Mr Weir said the latest guidance “promotes a flexible approach to the use of existing spaces as a means of maximising face-to-face teaching opportunities”.
Regarding space between pupils, the minister said: “Within school, in circumstances where strict social distancing between children cannot reasonably be applied, the use of ‘protective bubbles’, decreasing interaction and movement around the school must be followed.
“This additional mitigating measure has been applied successfully by other countries in their arrangements for reopening of schools.”