Students at Brightlingsea's Colne Community School and College face a staggered return to class so that the school can cope with the "logistical challenge" of testing them for Covid-19.
Following the government's announcement earlier this week that all secondary pupils, years 10 and 11 will return to the school on Monday, March 8, followed by years 8 and 9 on Tuesday, March 9 and year 7 on Wednesday, March 10.
In a letter to parents, Head of School Steven Crane said it was "such good news that we will be able to welcome all of our students back to school" – but "the caveat on schools reopening is that all students, on their return to school, will be expected to have three Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests, administered by staff, with three to five days between each test."
He continued: "As you will appreciate, with approximately 300 students in each year group, this will be a logistical challenge and impossible for us to complete LFD tests for each individual student within one school day."
Under new rules, pupils will also have to wear face coverings in lessons – previously they were only required in communal areas outside the classroom. "We know that this will be particularly uncomfortable for many students and, indeed, their teachers, but there are signs that this will not be a long-term requirement and we will be able to return to some normality in the not too distant future," said Mr Crane.
Mr Crane added: "We are genuinely delighted that we now have a date to work towards, which is not too far away, and are looking forward to welcoming everyone back into school."
• A plan to demolish the caretaker's house and a storeroom at the school to make way for a two-storey building containing 12 classrooms has been approved by Essex County Council. The new building will be linked by an external corridor to the existing school and will accommodate 300 additional pupils, creating a 1,500 place secondary school with a sixth form.