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MANSFIELD — Public school students in town will return to classrooms next week under a hybrid learning model, Superintendent Teresa Murphy said Tuesday.

Starting Oct. 15, all students who opted for the hybrid cohort model will return for two days of in-person learning. Cohort A will return Oct. 15 and Cohort B will return Oct. 16.

Masks will be required for all students in grades K-12 and classrooms have been equipped with hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and tissues to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, according to Murphy.

Once in-person learning begins, families, students and staff will be asked to conduct a daily self-check for COVID-19 symptoms.

Each school will also be hosting a return-to-hybrid information session. A separate meeting will cover issues such as transportation, food services and health services, according to Murphy.

To further assist families, a Returning & Learning Website has been created on the Mansfield schools website, Mansfieldschools.com, to assist families with accessing information they need to know.

Families in need of additional support, such as internet needs, school supplies, nutrition and social-emotional needs, are encouraged to contact their school principal or their child’s counselor, Murphy said.

Several additional modifications to each school in the district have been made to accommodate the return of students to the buildings. They include floor markings and decals throughout all buildings with social distancing reminders.

Students at the Qualters Middle School and Mansfield High School will be able to carry backpacks with them during school. Before the pandemic, backpacks were not allowed.

Other modifications include:

  • Health offices have been modified to include the creation of respiratory protection rooms for when students or staff show COVID symptoms, according to Murphy.
  • Food services will be paid through a contact-free system. All secondary students will receive an ID with a barcode. Seating in cafeterias will be 6 feet apart and students will face the same direction.
  • Truckloads of nonessential furniture were removed from classrooms and put into off-site storage in order to free up space and ensure social distancing in classrooms. Rugs were also removed.
  • Drinking fountains will not be accessible. Water bottle fill stations will be available for students and staff.
  • Tents will be set up at the high school and middle school for mask breaks, weather permitting.
  • Assigned seating will be mandatory in all classrooms and on the bus.

“Remote learning, which began for all students on Sept. 16, has been running smoothly and we appreciate all the hard work our staff, our students and their families have put into the process,” Murphy said in a statement. “But we are so excited to soon be welcoming our students back to their classrooms for two days a week under the hybrid learning model.

“We will be doing everything we can to ensure the safety of all those who enter our buildings, and will continue to monitor the ongoing COVID-19 situation closely.”

Families are encouraged to start their own planning for transitioning back to school. School officials suggest maintaining a supply of masks for their children and going over social distancing and health practices with them.

Because of the pandemic, hugging, high-fives or fist-bumps will not be allowed in school, and sharing of snacks, school supplies and bus seats is also forbidden.

David Linton may be reached at 508-236-0338.

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