SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– Thousands of students around the Ozarks are returning to school today. Springfield Public Schools says they’ll be focusing on safety.

“We are still in the midst of a pandemic,” superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan said. “We will still continue to exercise safety precautions as it relates to our cleaning protocols, ensuring that we have proper PPE. It’s going to be a great 2021-22 school year.”

Lathan says masking is required in Springfield school buildings, and social distancing and hand washing will be encouraged.

At some point these guidelines could change, but not without the Springfield-Greene County Health Department’s support.

Because of a district-wide bus route expansion, students will start their day at different times. High schoolers will get in at 7:30, most elementary schools will start at 8:30 and the bell will ring for middle and k-8 schools at 9:30.

In her first year as superintendent at SPS, Dr. Lathan says parents can expect a lot of communication.

“Not only from myself but our team. They can expect to see me out in the community holding various community meetings or town halls. Parents can also expect a soft launch of our parent community-university this school year,” Lathan said.

Dr. Lathan said the university is an empowerment program, where parents will get information from the district and also learn how to help their child and use community resources.