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School district planning for August reopening

David Adlerstein
The Apalach Times
The Apalach Times

You can expect the Franklin County Schools to open on schedule in or around Monday, Aug. 10, but exactly how it will be is still being worked out.

On Monday, July 6, Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran issued an executive order requiring all campuses to be opened in August.

The district has compiled family resource documents for anxious parents, and conducted an online survey during the first two weeks of July to afford administrators a sense of what parents thought.

According to Superintendent Traci Yoder’s office, the survey drew 403 responses, which meant the parents of 403 students took part, out of a complete population of about 1,000 students.

While it was by no means a scientific sampling, it did afford some insight into the feelings of parents, who supported by a four-to-one margin sending their children to attend classes on the main campus.

Jessica Gay, Yoder’s secretary, said 320, or roughly 81 percent, said they will send their students to school, while 77 said they would not.

Parents were also asked about Virtual School, which is an option under the state’s rules. Among those respondents, 173 indicated they would not enroll in virtual schooling, 60 said they would exercise that option, and 165 said they needed additional information before making a decision.

Gay said the dates for different aspects of the school re-opening are still being finalized, noting that a decision has been made to not have a physical open house, but to do that online.

“While we know everyone is anxious to know what the reopening plans for the 2020-21 school year will look like, please rest assured that district and school administration have been working closely with our local health department, planning and preparing to safely welcome our students and staff back to our campuses,” wrote Yoder.

She noted that in regards to online or in-person schooling, “please keep in mind regardless of your choice your child will be taught by Franklin County teachers, have a full range of course offerings, have access to instruction which meets the rigor required of the Florida Department of Education and have access to a digital device for the entire school year.”

Yoder said a series of work group meetings is planned for next week with elementary, secondary, pre-K, alternative, and adult education staff to provide feedback as the district moves forward in reopening its campuses.

In addition to reviewing materials on the district’s website, and Facebook page, parents are welcome to call the school office at 670-2800, or the district office at 670-2810 Monday through Thursday if they have specific questions that they cannot find the answer to.

In its guide, the district notes that families who opt for the Franklin Virtual Option must enroll their child or children through the district director of special programs. Students who enroll must remain enrolled in virtual school for a complete semester, to ensure grades are posted and credits awarded as completed.

Families who choose to return to campus but then opt for the Franklin Virtual option can do so at any time, but they too must remain enrolled through that option through the end of the semester.

In its guide, the district stresses that all school district facilities and transportation vehicles are being sanitized to ensure a clean and safe return for faculty, staff, and students.

“With COVID-19 guidance and information changing constantly, many opinions exist on the topic of prevention related to COVID-19 spread and mitigation efforts,” it reads. “Screening questions and temperature checks for school aged children have proven, at this point, to not be good indicators of whether or not a student is COVID-19 positive or has been exposed. Many children may not have symptoms beyond that of what might resemble a common cold.”

The manual highly recommends parents communicate with their child’s doctor and make sure that he or she is current with all required vaccinations for school and in overall good health.

“Should a child, faculty, or staff member exhibit signs or symptoms of COVID-19, the individual should report these concerns to school health staff immediately for initial evaluation,” it reads.

If the person then tests positive, the local and state health department will assist the school district in implementing the proper steps to prevent further exposure or transmission of COVID-19.

“An affected COVID-19 positive individual will not be able to return to work or school until cleared by a physician with a doctor’s note, reflecting the date of allowed return. For the health, safety, and welfare of all individuals, this requirement will not be waived,” it reads. “Student absences will be excused only for the duration of time reflected on the doctor’s note. Students with any illness that exhibits a fever, must remain at home and will not be allowed to return to school until fever free, without medication for 24 hours, or one entire day.

“Regular hand washing and/or sanitizing will be taught and stressed. It will be required upon entering school, and during periods of student transition from one location to the next,” reads the directive. “Hand sanitizing stations will be available in high traffic areas such as gymnasiums, cafeterias, media centers, and outside playgrounds. Signage to include reminders for good prevention of illness and overall wellness will be posted and standardized across all departments and schools.

“Students are to have and not share personal items such as hygiene items, school supplies, or food/drink. Parents should consider acquiring back to school supplies early, including personal sanitation items for their child, as supplies before school starts may be in short supply,” it says.

In addition to school buildings being cleaned and sanitized daily, “school buses and seats will be cleaned prior to each morning pick-up and before afternoon routes for drop-off. Restrooms, sinks, faucets, door handles, desktops, cafeteria lines, railings, and tables will be cleaned at increased frequency,” reads the manual.

“Student seating in all venues will be spaced as space allows,” it says, noting that faculty, staff, and students may wear a mask that is self-provided, but they are not required.

“Student masks are to be any solid color and without any lettering or design and may not be a bandana or bandana like mask,” it says.

The manual also notes that children are more likely to have serious, life-threatening complications from the seasonal flu than they are from COVID, and that only one person in Florida under the age of 25 has died from it.”

As of May 6, it notes, 10 children ages 14 and younger, and 48 young people between ages 15-24, have died nationwide due to COVID. “Sadly, nearly 600 children died from the flu during the 2017-18 flu season,” it reads. “Get your flu vaccine!”