Following a survey with 60 percent of the respondents saying they want a more normal school schedule, the Franklin County School System has scheduled classes to begin in early August.
A press release from Director Stanley Bean said that teachers will be back on Aug. 3 with students coming back for an abbreviated day on Aug. 5 with the first full school day on Aug. 7.
While the system plans to hold on-campus classes, strict guidelines are being implemented.
“Our goal is to provide a safe learning environment for all children,” Bean said.
Students and staff will have daily temperature checks each morning. Children with 100.4-degree temperatures or higher will be required to go home.
Guardians are being advised to not send their children to school if they have high-temperature signs.
Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes will be used throughout the day.
Social distancing will be strongly encouraged and enforced when needed, including classrooms, cafeterias, hallways and outside areas.
Children with health issues will have options to ensure they remain safe, Bean said.
Bean said state requirements will be much more strenuous than they were in the spring when the coronavirus initially hit the area.
Bean said the system will provide buses for all students.
However, he said it is strongly recommended that parents bring their children to school if at all possible.
At present, masks will not be required but they are encouraged for teachers and students.
Bean said some schools will have their own mask-wearing policies, and masks for students should be provided by parents, if they choose to use them.
Cafeterias will be open for all students.
“This has been very trying and stressful for many people.” Bean said. “I appreciate the work of my administrators, administrative assistants, and supervisors over the past several months to come up with the best plan for our school system. I appreciate all the calls and emails of support and offering to help from parents and community people.
“There will be several detailed information releases over the next few weeks as we prepare for the return.
“Parents, your support and cooperation will be of the utmost importance during the next few months.”
The School Board gave Bean the authority on June 25 to determine how classes will be handled this fall in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The board reviewed the recent survey that shows 60 percent of the responding guardians want normal classes this fall while 20 percent favored an alternate class schedule with the remaining 20 percent favoring 100 percent online learning.
The board agreed that although the majority of respondents favor a normal class schedule, doing so is easier said than done due to social-distancing considerations and other safety factors related to combating the pandemic.
School Board Member Lance Williams recommended the School Board grant Bean and the school system’s central office the authority to determine what options will work best for the system’s 11 schools.
“There’s a lot to this, and no matter what we decide, it will not address everything,” he said. “We’re better off leaving it with Stanley. … If we handle it, it’s going to be a mess.”
Bean said he would be consulting with principals on options, and the board agreed to review the issue further at its 6 p.m. July 13 meeting at the central office building.
If an alternate schedule were chosen, it would have involved some grades going to school on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with other classes going on Tuesdays and Thursdays to allow for social distancing.
Bean said the schedule would alternate the next week where students going on Tuesdays and Thursdays would go Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
However, he said the split schedule would make it difficult for parents to get their children to and from school and would also present scheduling problems.
Some board members said it would also involve teachers doubling up their workloads by having to teach the divided student bodies the same material.
A third option would have involved 100 percent online learning, but Bean said the logistics would have to be worked out to ensure all students would have computer learning devices and proper internet access.
The board said that, even with the normal class schedule format, there would still be online learning with some students’ medical conditions requiring them to remain at home.
Bean said, with modern technology, classes in session could be broadcast to home settings.
Board members said that the technology offers a post-pandemic advantage where students who are away from school due to other illnesses or conditions could still participate in classroom learning.
The survey included questions that asked general information to gather numbers on each schools’ student bodies, and it also asked how students had gone to and from school before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The survey asked guardians if they will use transportation provided by the district.
Board members questioned how social distancing would work on busses and what special sanitation practices might be required.
Bean said it would be best to have most parents and guardians personally transport their children to school.
If the School Board determines learning at home would be safer if the pandemic doesn’t subside as much as hoped, questions about internet availability for home-learning purposes were asked in the survey.
The survey also asked about household work arrangements and whether guardians are likely to work from home or outside of their residences.
Childcare requirements are also being addressed.
The survey asked questions about temperature checks, eating meals in more isolated classrooms instead of the cafeterias, regular disinfection practices and sharing spaces such as gyms and playgrounds.
It also asked about what the best way is to have guardians be in contact with the system — emails, text messages, district social-media options, phone calls or viewing information on school websites.
A key topic is to what extent guardians and system employees favor or oppose time frames to have instruction time.
Options include extending the upcoming school year into June 2021, extending school days to account for missing 2019-20 class instruction or compressing the 2020-21 schedule to teach all of the missing 2019-20 content and the new 2020-21 material during the upcoming regularly scheduled academic year.
The survey asked about online-learning concerns, such as having access to specific computer programs and students being held accountable for online learning, plus concerns about communication among teachers, students and parents/guardians.
It also asked about preferences for work packets, such as whether they should be picked up weekly or bi-weekly and how they should be returned to the school system.
Bean said online learning is bound to be more stringent than what students have faced at the pandemic’s outset.
He said the state’s grading requirements are expected to hold students and their testing results more accountable than what they’ve experienced thus far.