County schools close until at least March 31

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By order of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, all schools in the state will be shut until March 31.

  • By order of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, all schools in the state will be shut until March 31.
    By order of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, all schools in the state will be shut until March 31.
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CARNESVILLE – What started out as a wait-and-see approach by the Franklin County School System about whether or not to close county schools quickly turned into a complete shutdown until at least the end of the month.

By order of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, all schools in the state will be shut until March 31.

There have been a few changes involving Franklin County students in a short amount of time.

"To keep our students, teachers and administrators safe and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, I am ordering the closure of all public elementary, secondary and post-secondary schools in Georgia from March 18 to March 31," said Gov. Kemp. "This measure is critical to reducing local transmission in communities across our state and I ask Georgians to continue to follow best practices - washing their hands regularly, isolating the elderly and chronically ill and avoiding large events if possible - in the days and weeks ahead."

Franklin County School Superintendent Chris Forrer said that he was very happy about Kemp’s announcement since it meant keeping children safe.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended that no gatherings with 50 or more people take place for the next eight weeks. 

If this is followed, there would only be a week and a half of the school calendar left after the eight week period.

“This is having an affect on so many people and so many different things,” Forrer said. “We will probably have to cancel the Special Olympics and the drama department may be out of quite a bit of money they paid for the rights to a play they may not get to perform. My heart goes out to our seniors. If we don’t come back, this will have effectively ended their senior year.”

Seniors aren’t the only ones who are anxious about whether or not the school year is over. 

Teachers and school staff members are also concerned about how ending the school year so early will affect their pay.

“With teachers, it’s easier to make sure they are paid because they can participate in digital learning,” Forrer said. “It is my goal that everyone gets paid. I plan on doing whatever I can to ensure our people are paid. It’s the right thing to do.”

Plans for when to dismiss school due to concerns over the coronavirus changed – and quickly – during the weekend.

On Friday morning, Forrer informed the Franklin County Board of Education the school system planned to stay open for Monday through Wednesday of this week, with students taking Thursday and Friday for teachers’ workdays.

A majority of school systems in the state had chosen by that time to close due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Forrer cited the fact there were no COVID-19 cases within 50 miles of Franklin County and said the extra three days in school would allow parents time to plan for their children being out of school for an extended period of time.

He said he was also concerned for students who would be home unsupervised and about students who would not have enough to eat.

“Our first priority is doing what’s best for the kids and keeping our students safe,” Forrer said Friday. “We are prepared to shut down at a moment’s notice, but right now, we feel the risks of having students at home unsupervised and not giving parents adequate time to prepare are higher. We want to give parents time to prepare for having their children at home by staying open next week. We are concerned about our students who would be home unsupervised or may struggle with meals while school is out.”

Students were sent home Friday with a packet of work for one week.

Before noon on Sunday, those plans had changed.

The first two cases within 50 miles of Franklin County were confirmed in Athens.

President Donald Trump issued a National Emergency Declaration and Kemp declared a Public Health Emergency in the state. Both were announced after the board’s meeting on Friday morning.

On Sunday, the Franklin County School System Leadership Team – made up of Forrer and top administrators – met Sunday and announced Franklin County Schools would be closed to students until March 30.

The system also announced had an updated plan for instruction. 

The plan is as follows:

• students who were absent March 13 could pick up instructional resources from their school on Monday in each school’s car rider line;

• Instructional resources for March 23-30 will be provided on each school’s website, Google Classroom, Class Dojo, Remind or other possible digital outlets;

• Those who cannot access resources through the digital outlets could pick up packets in each school’s car rider or bus rider line on March 24 from 5-6 p.m. and March 25 from 11 a.m. to noon. Carnesville Primary will pick up at Carnesville Intermediate;

• All work can be turned in electronically through teachers’ digital outlets or dropped off in the school’s car rider line at the times provided above;

• For additional instructions or specific questions, parents are asked to email their child’s teacher. The email address is on the school’s website.