School Board sign

School is set to open Wednesday for the fall semester, but how students will get to and from Franklin County’s two middle schools is being sorted out.

Also at issue is working through the best way to hold classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Franklin County Commission’s Education Committee met Monday to discuss conditions with the School Board.

Director of Schools Stanley Bean said that Wednesday will be an abbreviated day with the daily session going from 8-9:30 a.m. with the first full day on Aug. 7.

He said the objective this week is to ensure the two new middle schools pass state Fire Marshal’s approval and will be allowed occupancy.

Committee members asked him what could happen if something delays approval.

Bean said the system has options that could allow for makeup days or extended school days to meet state attendance requirements.

He said the issue with North Middle School is final removal of the old structure and clearing debris to accommodate ingress and egress.

He added that South Middle School still has building furnishing details that are pending and will have to be addressed before school can open.

Bean said 830 to 840 of the system’s estimated 5,000 students, about 16 percent, have registered to learn off-campus. He said the number is lower than Lincoln County, which has more than 25 percent learning from home, but Franklin County is on par with Coffee County and Tullahoma.

He said recommended social-distancing measures will be followed with protective mask-wearing up to the individual schools. He added that the only school requiring masks is Sewanee Elementary School.

Bean said students will have their body temperatures checked with 100.4 degrees being the threshold for sending them home.

He said how on-campus learning will be allowed will be determined by how many active COVID-19 cases are in Franklin County, based on .005 percent of the county’s overall population.

That means that with Franklin County’s population at 42,000, the cap would be at about 210 active coronavirus cases.

After that, Bean said the system would have to shift to a more virtual learning format and a staggered schedule with certain classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and others on Tuesdays and Thursdays, then they would alternate the following week.

He said that if 400 active cases were to occur in Franklin County, on-campus classes would be eliminated, and the system would have to take extra measures to accommodate all students through virtual learning.

Bean said the upcoming school year presents challenges and will involve learning more about how to conduct classes amid the pandemic through experience gained from having to deal with it.

“Is it foolproof?” Bean said, referring to steps that are being taken. “No, and neither is sending a rocket to the moon.”