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Franklin Schools going virtual this fall

Board will later revisit plan

[Note: This version is an update from last week’s report.]

FRANKLIN

Students and staff in the Franklin City Public School division will be learning 100 percent virtually for the first nine weeks of the upcoming school year. This was the Franklin City School Board’s decision during its called meeting on Aug. 6.

That learning phase will begin on Sept. 1 and tentatively end on Nov. 4.

On Aug. 10, the board presented its reopening place to the city council.

“Dr. Sterling and her staff have dedicated many hours to developing a plan that offers the best possible opportunity to educate the students of Franklin City while also doing all we can to offer the safest solution possible for not just those students, but their families, our staff, and staff’s families as well,” said board chairwoman Amy Phillips. “While the School Board is aware that students learn best in the classroom environment, they also realize that children are children and assuring they wear a mask all day is something they cannot fully control so beginning the year virtually is the best plan.”

Cleo-Symone Scott, the division spokeswoman, told media via a press release that beginning on Nov. 5, the PreK-3rd, special education and English learning students will attend school in-person four days a week. The fourth through 12th grade students will either be virtual or hybrid with A/B schedules. That means that some students will go to school in the morning and others in the afternoon.

“Franklin City Public Schools continues to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and will revisit this plan before students are allowed to return to in-person instruction,” wrote Scott. “This is to ensure the safety of students, staff and families.”

Phillips said, “I also want to add that while the Board does carry the burden of ultimately being the decision-maker, we believe the community should have a strong voice in that decision as it is their community and their school division, and we want all community stakeholders and FCPS families to know we truly have the best interest of the entire community at heart.”

During the meeting, Sterling discussed the importance of connectivity as students and teachers prepare to learn and instruct virtually.

“We’ve surveyed all of our families and about 74% of our families have connectivity,” she said. “We also applied for the CARES Act for over 70 individual hotspots to be provided to our students. We also applied for additional funding so we can have hotspots for our teachers because, as you know, connectivity is a part of their job now, so we have to make certain we offer that as well.”

Scott stated the school division has also made sure to reach out to the community to make sure children with working parents have somewhere to go learn. Through partnerships with the Boys and Girls Club, Franklin Parks and Recreation, the YMCA, Unique Little Hands II and the Department of Social Services, FCPS has established opportunities for families to have “day camp” options for students during virtual learning days. The children will receive supervision while also being able to access and complete their virtual assignments.

Linwood Johnson of Ward 4 stated how good of a plan this is and thanked the school division and school board for a tremendous effort in putting this plan forward.

“We live in a virtual society now, whether we like to accept it or not,” he said. “This is one of the best processes available until we get COVID under control. We couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Mayor Frank Rabil also thanked the staff, teachers, and School Board for their hard work.

“I applaud you all for reaching out to your community partners to make sure you’re covering those bases too,” he said.