The first day of school on Monday at Northfield Public Schools was unlike any in past years for many reasons.

As students began to file into the new Greenvale Park Elementary School, made possible by a $41 million 2018 referendum, they were separated by the spelling of their last names to accommodate social distancing measures undertaken to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The district delayed the start of school from Sept. 8 to allow more time to meet with families and discuss COVID-19 and other issues society has grappled with over the last few months.

Monday was the first day of in-person instruction at Northfield Public Schools since Gov. Tim Walz ordered Minnesota schools to close in March to ease the spread of COVID-19. Superintendent Matt Hillmann noted he checked in with all building principals at least once, adding the first day seemed to go well. At Northfield Public Schools, approximately 600 students, approximately 14% of the student body, have chosen to learn exclusively online.

Hillmann said students and staff understood the need to wear masks and followed protocols in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.

This year, Northfield elementary students are returning to exclusively in-person instruction this fall as Middle School, High School and Area Learning Center students start in a hybrid learning format.

Older students have been separated into maroon and gold cohorts. Students in the maroon cohort will attend school in-person Mondays and Tuesdays before engaging in distance learning Wednesdays through Fridays. Gold cohort students will engage Mondays through Wednesdays and attend in-person Thursdays and Fridays.

Face coverings are required for all students engaging in in-person instruction. Staff is expected to create as much physical distancing as possible, and frequent hand-washing/hand sanitation will be encouraged. If COVID-19 symptoms are reported during a school day, an isolation process will be implemented.

District staff will screen themselves for COVID-19 symptoms on a daily basis, and parents are required and responsible for screening their children. They then are required to report COVID-19 symptoms or exposure to the school.

Buses are limited to 50% capacity.

Students are expected to spread out to eat in the cafeteria. Meals will be prepared on-site and served individually packaged when possible. When such packaging isn’t possible, food and beverages will be directly served to students.

All K-12 students will be provided with a district-issued iPad.

Reach Associate Editor Sam Wilmes at 507-645-1115. © Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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