Telstar Middle and High schools on Route 26 in Bethel. Samuel Wheeler/Bethel Citizen

BETHEL — Students in School Administrative District 44 ages 5 and older will be required to wear masks when they attend classes at schools and ride buses starting Wednesday.

The first three days will be half-days.

Students are expected to bring their own masks, although plenty will be available if they break or are misplaced.

Superintendent Dave Murphy announced in early August that the district had received 945 N95 masks and nearly 2,500 disposable masks from the state. The school also bought an additional 2,500 masks to ensure an adequate supply, he said.

For transportation, a little over a third of students will rely on school buses, while the rest will travel by themselves or with their parents, Telstar High School Principal Mark Kenny said.

Other safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 include one-way directional stickers in hallways, spacing out lockers, limiting bathroom trips and sanitizing classroom tables.

Kenney said the biggest change is that students experiencing any kind of symptoms must stay home.

“It’s going to be really important this year, more so than ever before, that if kids and staff are sick they need to stay home and then come back when they feel better,” he said. “It’s better than them coming in and possibly spreading it to everyone else. If they are sick, they can stay home and join classes remotely, so they will not miss anything.”

Kenny believes remote learning will be easier for students to adapt to this year, considering the district has had the summer to make changes to its setup.

The state requires that schools offer students three options for education: classes at school full time, learning online at home full time, or a combination of the two.

Districtwide, around 20% of students will start the year full time at home; the rest will attend classes at schools in Bethel and Woodstock.

Regarding fall sports, Kenney said teams have started practicing, but district officials will wait to see what the state does before making any further decisions. He acknowledged that going ahead with sports will be a challenge, especially with transportation.

“We want to be able to offer the kids something, but we also want to be able to be safe about it and think about the greater community, too” he said.

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