Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga unveiled plans on Tuesday evening for the phased reopening of schools from 1 June.
She said schools would be reopened for grades 7 and 12, and other small schools first, followed by other grades at later stages.
The plan was approved by the National Coronavirus Command Council and Cabinet.
Motshekga added the measures taken to save the academic year and the reopening of schools have to be done in a manner that did not contribute to the spread of the coronavirus.
"If there is anything that we have learned and appreciated from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is that we are all in this together.
"This is unchartered waters and that is why we have relied heavily on the advice of experts in the medical fraternity under the leadership of the Department of Health."
Here are the nine things you need to know from Motshekga's briefing:
More than 1 000 schools have been vandalised since the start of the lockdown
She said during the 54 days of the national lockdown, 1 577 schools were vandalised, damaged and burnt - 463 in KwaZulu-Natal and 336 in Gauteng.
"This is truly a disturbing trend that will set us back in our efforts of trying to get back the academic programme."
Sanitisers, masks, water and sanitation facilities being distributed to all schools
The Department of Basic Education was in the process of distributing essential sanitisers, masks, water and sanitation facilities, Motshekga said, adding schools were also being cleaned ahead of the arrival of pupils.
Wearing masks will be compulsory
It would be compulsory for all pupils to wear masks throughout the school, starting before they board transport such as buses or taxis on the way to school, she added.
Plans to protect teachers and pupils with comorbidities
Motshekga said the department was working with health professionals and the Department of Public Service and Administration to issue guidelines for staff and teachers who have comorbidities.
Comorbidities in the case of Covid-19 are illnesses, such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease among others, that may worsen an individual's coronavirus infection.
Motshekga urged parents to work closely with schools to ensure pupils with pre-existing illness were also assisted, saying schools would work with parents to obtain the necessary information from parents.
The basic education system will be re-engineered
Motshekga said South Africa's basic education system would be re-engineered to minimise the impact of Covid-19 in the long term.
In the short term, the department has come up with several measures to make up for lost time.
She said the department would be using innovative methods about how health, safety, social or physical distancing requirements were met in schools.
The curriculum will be trimmed
Motshekga added a trimmed curriculum would be sent to schools for planning purposes, and was being developed on a continuous basis. She did not provide further details on what it will look like.
School sports will be prohibited and trips put on hold
School sports would not be permitted as they would increase the chances of infection and undermine efforts of containing the coronavirus, Motshekga said. "When class is dismissed, learners must go home."
She added curriculum enrichment programmes, such as school trips and visits, have been put on hold until further notice. "We want to focus on the core business of basic education, which is curriculum implementation."
School nutrition programme to reopen
Motshekga said the nutrition programme would be reopened for all pupils when grades 12 and 7 are reintroduced to schools on 1 June.
All food handlers would be supplied with the required personal protective equipment including gloves, aprons and cloth masks, she said.
Reopening of special schools and early childhood development centres being considered
Motshekga added the department was working with organisations regarding the phased approach to reopen special schools as they were aware the schools needed a different approach.
She said the department was aware early childhood development centres (ECDs) provided care for children of essential service workers and people returning to work.
Motshekga added careful consideration would be made to ensure the delicate balance between allowing ECDs to operate, alongside the safety and health of the children and their caregivers.