SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- For the first time in six months, students at Pope Francis Preparatory School in Springfield headed back in the classroom today.

Unlike other schools that are sticking with a remote or hybrid model, Pope Francis is offering options for complete in-person learning this school year.

It’s a first day like never before at Pope Francis Preparatory in Springfield.

“They are excited…They’re excited to see their friends and their teachers, especially being freshman,” said parent Lisa Corbitt.

Head of School Dr. Paul Harrington added, “We are so excited to have all students back.”

For anyone who has ever seen or toured the campus, you know that when it comes to fulfilling social distancing requirements. Size is definitely on their side.

“We do have 378 students and 100,220 square feet,” Harrington added.

That is how Harrington said they are able to offer in-person learning this year, while still fulfilling the states requirements for safe and socially distant learning.

“Ya know, if we couldn't safely fit the students in that class and social distance the classrooms, we wouldn't be open…We’ve also offered to parents that if they want to keep their child home doing remote learning, they can do that, so we are live streaming all of our classes every day,” Harrington explained.

With a rebuilt campus that is only three years old, they have a state-of-the-art HVAC system that circulates the air up to standard for COVID-19.

They have also adjusted class length to help minimize interaction.

“We increased class times to 85 minutes long and students go to four classes in a day and the passing times, we've reduced the amount of time kids are in the hallway during the day,” Harrington noted.

They also added what they are calling a ‘e-hall pass’ that monitors how many students are in the halls at one time.

Additionally, all students participated in an orientation preparing them for the changes in the upcoming school year.

“We focused heavily on protecting themselves and protecting others, hygiene practices, the proper use of a masks, what masks are accepted at school, which is required,” Harrington explained.

However, Western Mass News also asked the question: what will happen if a student gets COVID-19? Will plans change?

“If that were to happen in our community, the DPH and DESE put of very clear guidelines about contact tracing and how you make the determination if whether you need to quarantine a group of students or shut down the school and go remote,” Harrington said.

Corbitt noted, “As a mom, I feel 100 percent confident that the school put every possible scenario together to make sure they were safe.”

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