Schools and some classes catering for children with physical and intellectual disabilities could reopen in a week's time.
After talks with trade union representatives this morning, Minister for Education Norma Foley said that it is a "shared ambition" of both her's and the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) and Fórsa trade union that special schools open again for students on 21 January, as well as special classes for children with disabilities in primary schools.
As part of a possible school reopening next Thursday, there will "flexibility" to cater for disadvantaged students.
Schools will have discretion to bring children back to classrooms if they deem it necessary.
In a statement, Ms Foley said they are working together towards a phased return for children in special schools and a return to school for those in special classes in primary schools and children with significant additional needs in mainstream classes beginning on 21 January.
The minister said the pause put on her plans to partially reopen schools had given her the opportunity to listen to the concerns of primary and special education stakeholders and to engage intensively with key stakeholders, with Public Health and with disability advocacy groups.
"I very much hope that we can work together to set out a pathway for the return of all children at all levels of schooling at the start of February, subject of course to Government and public health consideration of what constitutes the safe movement of people at that point," the statement added.