This story is a compilation of all of the stories the Franklin County Citizen Leader has reported on preparations for the 2020-21 school year.
CARNESVILLE – Students will hear school bells ring in Franklin County Schools Friday for the first time since March as an uncertain 2020-21 academic year begins.
“As all of you know, last year didn’t go as planned,” School Superintendent Chris Forrer told teachers Monday at a Convocation Service held via Zoom, “and this year will be even more challenging.”
The new school year will begin amid a resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic that shuttered last school year in March, cancelled sports seasons and end-of-the-year events and pushed graduation into July.
The new year begins Friday with a host of procedures that will aim to keep children safe and classrooms and facilities clean.
It will also come with 450 of its students choosing to learn online by computer thanks to the system’s virtual learning option.
(For details on the steps schools have taken as the new year begins, see below.)
During Monday’s Convocation, held as teachers reported for pre-planning, Forrer urged his faculty to keep things in perspective, find opportunities in difficulties and to serve as the “eye” of the storm for students.
Forrer said that the coronvirus pandemic is not the first such disaster humanity has faced.
“History repeats itself,” he said. “All we have to do is change a few dates and names.”
Keeping perspective helps alleviate fear and to focus on things that are important: faith, family and students, he said.
Forrer said that it is OK to be scared but not afraid.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt – who said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” when taking office in the midst of the Great Depression, recognized that fear is a choice and the real enemy, Forrer said.
Opportunities arise in the face of hardship, he said.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower realized that the German Army’s Blitzkreig attack method could be used against it by allowing the Germans to push into to middle of Allied forces and then counterattacking from the sides and rear, Forrer said.
Any situation like the pandemic can present chances for success, he said.
“This will be an opportunity and not a disaster,” the superintendent said.
Forrer read an email he received from a paraprofessional that urged schools and individuals to be “the eye of the storm.”
“As the uncertainty of the world swirls madly outside, let us share our calm and a window of peace with everyone we encounter. If we can do this maybe we can gather enough strength and endurance to see us safely to the other side,” the email read.
Forrer said he’s not naive enough to think it will be an easy school year. He also told teachers that the decisions they make and he makes as superintendent will be criticized, no matter what those decisions are.
“Know this: if you love our students and are the eye of the storm, then I will back your judgment call,” he said.
He urged teachers to think outside the box, hold classes outside and do what is best for students.
“That is my message for the new year, ladies and gentlemen: many years from now when we look back at how stressful the 2020-21 school year was, we will also know in our hearts that this year, without a doubt, was our finest hour,” he said.
Franklin County High School graduate Lauren Bruce also spoke during Convocation.
Bruce said that school helped her overcome challenges in her life and become successful not only in school but in opening her own pet-sitting business.
She urged teachers to be present in their students lives and let students know they are there for them.
She said teachers should “get plugged in” to their students lives and be proactive to help and encourage them.
School system provides answers about virus plans (from July 23 issue)
By Kandice S. Eberhardt
CARNESVILLE – With the 2020-21 school year approaching and the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, the beginning of the school year is going to look different.
School is scheduled to begin in Franklin County Aug. 7.
During a back-to-school informational meeting on Facebook Live last week, Franklin County Schools Superintendent Chris Forrer answered questions concerning about what the school year may look like.
Face masks will not be mandatory, but they will be strongly recommended.
“The school system will have masks available for teachers and students,” Forrer said.
Everyone will be screened each day before they are allowed to enter school buildings.
Forrer said that anyone who has a fever of over 100 degrees will be sent home.
“We pray and hope if someone is sick, they will stay home,” Forrer added.
School will begin at regular times.
The superintendent said that the system will do its best social distance students, “but there are going to be times students will not be six feet apart. It’s impossible to keep kids six feet apart the entire school day. We are going to do the best we can.”
There will be no field trips this year.
Visitors won’t be allowed in school building unless they are there on school business.
The school system is reviewing if mentors will still be allowed to visit their “mentees” this school year. At press time, no decision had been made.
The system was still working on a plan for meals at the middle school.
High school students will continue to eat in the cafeteria.
Meals will be brought to the classroom for kindergarten students.
Students in grades 1-5 will pick up their lunches from the cafeteria and return to their classrooms.
“We are encouraging teachers to take their classes outside to eat lunch whenever possible,” Forrer said. “Students can still bring lunches from home. Parents won’t be allowed to come eat lunch with their children.”
Anyone who is interested in building and/or providing schools with outdoor tables and chairs for students to use for lunch were asked to contact their local school.
Meals will still be provided for students doing virtual learning. The meals will have to be picked up from the student’s home school. The system hasn’t worked out the details, but they are working on it.
Students will still have recess. However, classes in the same grade will no longer have recess in the same location. Classes will have recess in different locations.
“We will do everything we can, but there is no way we can transition 1,000 students at the high school and maintain social distancing,” Forrer said.
“We are going to do the best we can do for the safety of our students,” Forrer said. “Realistically, social distancing is not possible on school buses.”
Assistant Superintendent Chuck Colquitt added that the system is expecting more car riders than ever before and asked parents to be patient as schools work out the kinks of having an increased number of car riders the first few weeks of schools.
Also, parents who are able to bring their child/children to school were asked to do so.
“The fewer kids we have on the school buses, the more we will be able to space them out,” Forrer said.
One of the main questions asked during the Facebook Live event involved the protocol the school system will follow if a student, teacher or staff member tests positive.
All students and employees that have COVID-19 symptoms, tested positive for COVID-19, have had contact with someone that has tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 14 days, or have a temperature of 100.4 or higher, must not attend school and are asked to self-report to the school.
All students and employees that begin to show symptoms during the school day or have a temperature of 100.4 or higher will be isolated and sent home immediately. In this case, any student or employee needing isolation while on campus will be required to wear a mask.
“We are going to follow the matrix developed by the Department of Public Health (DPH),” Forrer said. “According to the matrix, exposure should be handled on a case by case basis. If exposure does happen, we are going to contact DPH and listen to them on what to do.”
Exposure is handled on a case by case basis to determine how close someone is to the infected person and how much time spent with the person.
Another question was how the system would handle notifying parents of students who may have had contact with an infected person.
“I would love to tell you that if someone is infected, we will be able to give you the who, what and where, but there are confidentiality issues,” Forrer said. “We will do the best we can, but we cannot identify students.”
Any student or employee that is sent home or required to stay home due to exposure or symptoms will be required to meet Georgia Department of Public Health guidelines before being able to return to school.
Any student that must be quarantined will be able to continue to receive educational resources.
The system will also follow the following guidelines:
• School nurses will be the main point of contact for COVID-19 at each school.
• There will be signs located throughout the school reminding students of recommended healthy hygiene. Students will be reminded of proper hand washing and covering sneezes and coughs.
• Throughout each building, hand sanitizer will be available. Students may bring hand sanitizer from home.
• Recess and CAMMP time at elementary schools may have to be modified. Students should experience some of these activities each week. The amount of experience will depend on needs for keeping students safe and healthy.
• The use of shared items that are difficult to clean or disinfect will be discouraged. (Examples: crayons, pencils, manipulatives, instruments, etc.)
• Students and employees may bring water bottles from home in order to limit the need to use water fountains.
This year, open houses will be held virtually.
The school system is working on a plan to handle sixth grade and ninth grade orientation.
Kindergarten orientation will be held during the kindergarten readiness check.
Royston Elementary School held its kindergarten readiness check Wednesday. Lavonia Elementary School’s was held on Monday. Carnesville Elementary School’s is scheduled for July 28.
Paws 4 Parents at Franklin County High School for ninth grade students is scheduled for Aug. 5 from 9-11:30 a.m. and 1-6 p.m.
One parent per ninth grade student will be able to come meet their student’s advisor, receive schedule, sign forms, and walk the building.
Students in grades 10-12 will receive their schedule the morning of Aug. 7 when they report to their advisor at school.
‘Virtual’ school set for 450 students (from the July 30 issue)
By Kandice S. Eberhardt
CARNESVILLE – With the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic still ongoing, the Franklin County School System is offering students an option to stay home and have school online.
“Virtual learning is not going to look like it did in the spring,” Franklin County Schools Superintendent Chris Forrer said of the online school option. “In the spring, we had no opportunity to plan for virtual learning. We have spent the summer preparing for this and we are going to spend the school year preparing students and teachers for virtual learning if we have to shut down again.”
Four hundred fifty students have signed up to participate in the virtual learning option. That’s more than 12 percent of the 3,602 students who were enrolled in the school system in March.
Students participating in virtual learning will be using a variety of age-appropriate online instructional platforms such as, but not limited to, Google Classroom, Seesaw, Performance Matters IXL, USA Testprep, GradPoint and Edgenuity.
According to Forrer, each platform offers standards-based instruction each day and standards-based tests.
Students participating in the virtual learning option will have a combination of online instruction, required assignments, interaction with Franklin County teachers using digital format and academic expectations.
“The curriculum will be more of a factor for learning,” Forrer said. “Even though students will be doing virtual learning, they will still attend live online instruction provided by Franklin County teachers during traditional school hours.”
Instruction will be recorded for later review, if needed, but students will be required to take part a minimum of 4.5 hours a day.
Students will be required to use their assigned Franklin County Schools device for virtual learning.
“Unlike the spring, we are going to train students and parents on how to use the platforms and devices,” Forrer said. “Virtual learning won’t begin the same day as the first day of school. We want to get all of our virtual learning students and parents in for training before we begin. It’s going to take a few days to accomplish this with social distancing.”
Families choosing virtual learning for their students committed to the program for at least one semester.
“Because of the resources involved with in-person instruction, we have asked parents to commit to their child doing virtual learning for one semester,” Forrer said. “If there are parents whose students are doing in-person and for whatever reason they would like to change to virtual learning, that is easier to do than taking a student from virtual to in-person.”
While online learning will limit some services, like special education services, 504 accommodations and EIP/ESOL/Gifted services, students will be allowed to participate in other regular activities.
“Our virtual learning students are still a part of our family,” Forrer said. “They are still eligible to participate in school activities, such as clubs, counseling services and athletics.”
Parents who have chosen the virtual learning option are responsible for repair or replacement of assigned Franklin County property, participating in training for online platforms and online expectations, answering all emails and other modes of communication within 24 hours, providing school supplies as needed, picking up class assigned instructional resources as needed and participating in all meetings regarding student success, including 504 and IEP meetings.
During the Back to School Information Meeting held on Facebook Live, Forrer was asked if virtual learning was going to be comparable to in-person instruction.
“I’m going to be honest with you, nothing compares to in-person instruction, otherwise everyone would already be doing virtual learning,” he answered.
The superintendent asked parents for patience as the online program is put in place.
“As with every thing this year, we are trying to figure things out,” he said. “We may not have everything worked out at first, but we will try to get a handle on it. We just ask parents to be patient with us.”
Cleanliness a top priority as students return (from July 30 issue)
By Kandice S. Eberhardt
CARNESVILLE – Sanitation is going to be a top priority for Franklin County Schools this school year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The school system has increased its cleaning procedures.
Not only is the system providing everyone with two masks, but hand sanitizer stations will be located throughout each school.
“We have been working all summer to make sure the schools are ready to reopen,” said Franklin County Schools Superintendent Chris Forrer.
During a Franklin County Board of Education called meeting, Director of Facility Operations Jason Oliver said the principals of the schools have been involved with working with ABM, the system’s sanitation company, to address concerns the system had about the cleanliness of its schools due to the pandemic.
In an effort to keep schools clean and disinfected, the system has purchased ten disinfecting foggers, which will be on each campus.
“The foggers can be used to do immediate treatment of a room, if needed,” Oliver said. “An electric static sprayer has also been added to the system for disinfecting.”
The system has hired an additional staff member who is certified to operate the sprayer.
This staff member will go to each school on a rotation to disinfect classrooms with the sprayer.
The foggers were demonstrated during a recent school board meeting and are also being used to disinfect weight rooms, outdoor equipment and locker rooms used this summer by sports teams.
“We will have handheld foggers for the buses so they can be disinfected before students get on and when they get off,” Oliver said. “ABM will work to make sure the hand sanitizer stations stay full.”
Oliver also said that a lot of things will come up that the system will have to address when they arise.
Teachers are going to be responsible for ensuring the desks in their classrooms are sprayed and wiped down between class changes.
“We have upgraded what we were using as a cleaning solution,” Oliver said. “And to address concerns that were expressed, we are wiping classrooms down with disposable cloths.”
The schools will have signs posted throughout informing students of proper handwashing techniques.