A principal in Magherafelt has said more care is needed to protect the lives of children and staff after a last-minute decision to delay a return to school.
Mary O'Kane, head teacher at St Brigid's Primary School, Mayogall made the comments as Education Minister Peter Weir announced a U-turn on plans to reopen schools on January 4 due to soaring Covid-19 rates.
The majority of school pupils won't return in the first week of January as planned, with primary school pupils to be taught remotely until January 11.
Remote learning will continue throughout January for years eight to 11.
Opening as usual next week will be childcare settings, pre-school facilities, nurseries and special schools.
Schools will also accommodate vulnerable children and those of key workers next week.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Ms O'Kane said the lack of forward planning in the decision was inexcusable.
"Last-minute doesn't even begin to answer it. I'm at my desk today like many other principals, trying to make arrangements," she added.
"On Wednesday night it seemed that school wasn't opening for a week. Now we have to be ready on Monday morning for vulnerable children and children of key workers."
With a number of her staff self-isolating, she said an added pressure was finding substitute teachers who could deliver blended learning.
"It's not my job to question the minister's decision, but we could all see it coming," she explained.
"I can see the point of view that children are safer in school.
"We keep them in very strict bubbles, but at the same time, with all the families gathering over Christmas, the plan to have reopened schools on January 4 was endangering the lives of a lot of people.
"The fact that this new strain is so virulent and transmissible is a huge concern.
"But the minister does have a very difficult job.
"He's damned if he does, damned if he doesn't.
"There really does need to be some more careful planning and better organisation."
The sudden change has caused added stress for many parents across Northern Ireland struggling to arrange childcare plans, although others welcomed the move.
Chris Crooks (35), from Holywood, owns a tattoo parlour in Belfast which has been shut as part of the six-week lockdown.
His sons Jackson (9) and Carter (8) now also have an extra week at home.
"If I had to choose, at this time of year with my business being shut, I'm more than happy to have them home," he said.
"If there's one thing I've learned over the last six months, as a parent and a businessman, it's that the Executive likes to leave things to the last minute."
The Ulster Teacher's Union welcomed the delay but said Mr Weir's decision had come two weeks too late.
General Secretary Jacquie White accused the minister of treating teachers with "disregard and disrespect".
The SDLP's education spokesperson, Daniel McCrossan MLA, also welcomed the delay but said that Mr Weir had "failed to act proactively".