The reopening of schools on January 18 will be reviewed over the next few days, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has told the Scottish Parliament.
Pupils are to learn from home for a week from January 11 before returning to class.
But Ms Sturgeon warned the new strain of Covid-19 had created a “severe situation” and the planned return of schoolchildren was being assessed.
Parents, she said, would be given as much notice as possible if schools are to remain closed any longer.
Hubs will continue
Assurance was also given that hubs for vulnerable children and children of key workers – who will be able to return to school on January 7 in Tayside and Fife – will be provided for as long as is necessary.
A delay in reopening schools after the Christmas holidays was announced on December 19 along with news of a three-week lockdown for Scotland from Boxing Day.
Evidence of the lower risk of transmission of Covid-19 among children had, she said, supported the safe operation of schools but the emergence of the new variant had “changed some of these assumptions”.
Ms Sturgeon said: “As we learn more about this new variant we also continue to review when pupils can safely return to classrooms.
“The new strain has already made a normal scheduled return impossible but we continue to assess whether it will be possible to reopen schools as planned on January 18.
The new strain has already made a normal scheduled return impossible but we continue to assess whether it will be possible to reopen schools as planned on January 18.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
“That is what, I think, we all want and to be clear that remains our planning assumption.
“But we will continue to put the safety of pupils, teachers and school staff first and, of course, we will ensure as much notice as possible to parents of any changes we consider to be necessary.”
She said there remained no definitive or conclusive evidence that the new variant was more transmissible among children, but said that that possibility was influencing current thinking about schools.
Plans were also being developed for greater use of testing within schools once the new term does start, she said.
Teachers and parents worried
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard highlighted worries among both teachers and parents about what lies ahead.
He said: “Teachers and other school staff are due to return to work in a few days’ time still without routine testing in place, without priority for vaccination and still concerned about the January 18 full-time return being safe.
“Parents will hear the First Minister’s comments today and wonder if schools really will be able to return to face-to-face teaching on January 18.
“Many of them are worried about the implications of a return to home learning.”