PUPILS returning to Hermitage Academy after the summer can expect to see big changes when they are back to school for the 2020/21 session.

Staggered lunchtimes and separate eating arrangements are set to be implemented at the school, while in a bid to discourage pupils gathering in groups, lockers will not be used.

In an open letter published on the school’s website, head teacher Robert Williamson also confirmed that while school buses will operate, face coverings will require to be worn by everyone on board.

PE lessons are intended to be run as normal.

But any pupil displaying any symptoms of Covid-19 should not come to school.

Nearly five months after schools across the country were closed, the Academy’s new term will begin with an in-service day for staff on Tuesday, August 11.

READ MORE: 'Nothing will be ruled out to help our pupils', says Hermitage Academy head teacher

S1 pupils only should attend on Wednesday, August 12, and S1, S2 and S3 only on Thursday, August 13.

On Friday, August 14, only pupils in S4, S5 and S6 should attend.

The first day for all six year groups attending school together will be Monday, August 17.

A separate letter has been sent to parents of incoming S1 pupils.

Mr Williamson said: “Our rationale is, of course, based on giving the greatest level of support to all young people and families who have had an incredibly wide range of experiences over the summer.

“We believe our priority is to assess the mental health and wellbeing of all of our young people and staff as we move forward, also recognising that we are far from ‘normality’ even now, and that there is still an ever changing landscape to take into account.

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“Therefore, we will be bringing young people in gradually over the first few days, to give us a chance to begin to rebuild those relationships and to ensure that those who require additional support receive the attention they need.

“We have been informed that transport will be available, but I understand that although distancing will not be necessary, masks will have to be worn on all forms of transport.”

On catering arrangements, Mr Williamson said: “The full range of food will be available, but staggered bells will be used to reduce crowds.

“The upper assembly hall will be available for S5/6 and main hall for other year groups.

“However, all pupils will be asked to leave the dining areas as soon as they have finished eating, unless there is inclement weather, again to reduce contact and allow cleaning.

“To this end, please ensure your child has suitable clothing for outdoors, including footwear at least shower resistant and a warm jacket. Scottish summers are not necessarily consistent!

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“As you know, we have been working hard to improve the pupils’ own involvement in keeping the campus clean, and I would appreciate support in reiterating the importance of reducing litter during this time as it would present an increased risk.

“S2-S6 will still be allowed to leave the campus at lunchtime (not morning break) and this further necessitates the need for them to have a mask if they intend to go to any shops.

“Although there is no requirement for young people to keep two metres apart in the government guidelines, pupils must keep a two-metre distance from any adults.

“It is also advisable that senior pupils maintain a reasonable distance wherever possible.”

Mr Williamson concluded: “Can I please emphasise the importance of complying with guidelines at this time.

"If your child displays symptoms, do not send them to school.

READ MORE: Helensburgh parents' top 'back to school' questions answered by education chiefs

“Please also emphasise that they must adhere to all of the instructions given during this time to ensure their own health and safety and that of their friends and of our staff.

“Also, regrettably, parents must contact the school by phone or email, and should not enter the building unless absolutely necessary – and only by prior arrangement.

“I hope that this has put your mind at rest although I realise these are stressful times and that we all still have to be mindful of the mental health needs of all of our young people.

“Our calmness and confidence will help them navigate this period and reassure them that they are still our priority.

“I would emphasise that we will be thoughtful, caring and flexible to the needs of all pupils and families during this time as I am sure they will be with our staff who have been nothing but supportive during this time.”

READ MORE: Catch up with the latest news headlines from around Helensburgh and Lomond here