Students returning to Norwich Free Academy next week will find many changes amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Traffic flow on the 10-building high school campus is almost entirely one-way. Distance markers can be found throughout, both inside and outside. Hand sanitizers and sanitizing wipes have been installed in every classroom.
“The process is students use hand sanitizer, get a wipe, wipe down their space, class begins," explained Michael O'Farrell, director of communications for the school.
The school is operating on a hybrid plan for the fall, meaning the student body of about 2,200 students will be split in half for in-person learning. Students will attend school in-person for two days a week and virtually for three days a week. About 300 students have opted for 100% distance learning. Every classroom is equipped with a webcam.
Classes will be dismissed at different times to prevent crowding in hallways. Students will be provided a mask and a daily symptom checklist.
NFA has turned a science room into an isolation room for anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. Communal tables have been removed from the cafeteria and have been replaced with individual desks. NFA is also utilizing the auditorium for a secondary cafeteria and seating area.
“We have taken the steps to make it safe, and to provide an environment that will allow for learning," said O'Farrell.
O'Farrell said that one of the biggest challenges will be helping students and faculty adjust to the changes, physically and emotionally. He said that the school is prepared to help ease students in and show support.