Inside the hallway of Delaney Elementary School in Wrentham, there’s fresh paint on the walls and black arrows pasted to the floor that indicate which direction students should walk.

The directional arrows are just some of the changes underway at the school in response to the pandemic.

“This is definitely something that they're already used to. They already walk single file. So, this will be nothing," said second-grade teacher Lauren Keefe.

Keefe is everything you might expect to see in a second-grade teacher — she’s friendly, reassuring, and enthusiastic about her students and teaching.

But Keefe hasn’t been in the classroom since March, and she misses it.

“I love being here in the building, in the classroom and interacting with the students. One hundred percent,” she said.

At the end of every summer, Keefe sets up her classroom and looks forward to greeting students. But classroom preparations in 2020 are more complex than ever and come with a lot of new things — from added emotions to face-covering masks. Keefe's mask will be see-through, so students can see her face.

“I would definitely lie if I said I wasn't nervous,” she said. "This, as we know, is unprecedented time [for] education in history. I'm sure every educator is, you know, has their own nerves about what model they're doing, depending on what district they're in and what that looks like.”

On Tuesday, state officials announced that about 70 percent of school systems plan to bring students back to the classroom at least part-time this fall. Most are using a hybrid plan of at-home and in-school learning.

Wrentham School Superintendent Allan Cameron said his district is going with the hybrid model.

“We're going to split our students into two cohorts, cohort A and cohort B students," he said. "Cohort A are going to come to school for in-person learning on Mondays and Tuesdays. Cohort B will have in-person learning on Thursdays and Fridays. They'll learn remotely on the other days of the week.”

Cameron said the district did its due diligence, using staff and community surveys to reach its decision. But, he added, the district is also prepared to switch gears and go fully remote should the number of COVID-19 infections increase.

“We are ready to pivot,” Cameron said. “We've got the criteria in place to kind of review the data with a virus in our community, and then based on that, and then any guidance from the state, ... we're ready to shift.”

Delaney's principal, Kathleen Maloney, said they also need to reassure parents.

"Some of these parents are sending their students off to school for the first time during a pandemic," Maloney said. “So, I'm trying my best to put their minds at ease that we are doing everything we can to possibly help to ease the transition and to help their students get back to school.”

To promote social distancing, Maloney has placed desks in rows and columns, which will help accommodate a smaller group of students in the building than usual.

"We're changing a lot of procedures just to keep everybody safe, getting to school, walking through school, leaving school and being in the building," she said. "So, I’m very confident that this will work.”

And there are other operational changes in place, too. Students will eat lunch in their classrooms. And bus transportation and subjects like physical education and music have been reworked in accordance with public health guidelines.

But even with the new mandates, Keefe said classrooms with whiteboards and calendars will have a familiar feel for all the students.

“I'm definitely excited to be coming back in person versus over the screen, especially at the start of the year.”

Keefe is also a parent — she has three young children who will also return to school under a hybrid plan. She said she understands the challenge of juggling work, home and school and trusts the plans that are in place to start school Sept. 14.

“And in my heart of hearts, [I trust] that no child would be going back to school if it wasn't, you know, quote unquote, safe," she said. "I do feel very confident that Wrentham has done a phenomenal job.”

But no matter how well prepared a district is, some things will just be different.

“I do honestly feel like there's going to be kids jumping and screaming with happiness to be back, running down the halls, probably wanting to give some hugs, which will be tricky, because I'm such a hugger," Keefe said. “As an educator, it's hard to deny them that, but just really big smiles."