Franklin changes school start date because of coronavirus uncertainties

The Franklin Board of Education voted this week to change the start dates for the new school year because of safety concerns to Sept. 8 from Aug. 18 for the first day of school for students. The board also changed the start date for teachers from Aug. 13 to Aug. 27.

“We had concerns about safety and we wanted to have more time to get staff trained, the buildings opened so we get it right,” said Superintendent Michael Sander.

The district will operate in two models this school year, in-person learning and remote learning. Students and parents had until Friday to make their choice, Sander said. He said about 5% of the district’s 3,000 students have opted for remote learning.

Sander and the rest of the Warren County school superintendents have been meeting weekly to address issues for what will be a unique start to a school year. In addition, the superintendents have been in contact with state school officials and the Warren County Health Department to ensure their reopening plans are approved and remain in compliance with the state rules and regulations that are being issued.

“We don’t want to shortchange the students,” he said. “We’re trying to keep the instructional days as close as normal.”

In a letter posted on the district’s website, Sander said the delay will provide additional time to prepare appropriate professional development dedicated to strengthening face-to-face and remote instructional practices, and training staff in new safety procedures that have been implemented.

Sander said the protocols to be used are dependent on what coronavirus level the county is on at the time. If the county is at Level 3 or Red, masks will be required to be worn during in-person classes and no visitors or vendors would be allowed in the buildings.

Should the county go to Level 4 or Purple, all classes will go remote and there would be no extracurricular activities. At Level 2 or Orange, masks will be worn if there is not enough room for social distancing, he said.

A new school calendar will be presented to the board at its Aug. 10 board meeting, he said. Sander said the district may have to shorten its winter break to make the adjustments to all of the building schedules and try to avoid shortening of spring break.

In other business, the board:

  • Approved the memorandum of understanding with the city of Franklin to provide a school resource officer for the district. The district covers nine months of the officer’s salary and benefits package, with the city covers the remaining three months when school is not in session.
  • Accepted the donations of face masks as well as materials to make face masks.
  • Heard an update on the repairs to the Hampton Bennett Building following a July 16 fire that started through spontaneous combustion of discarded finishing rags in a trash can. Business Manager Rodney Roberts said contractors have been contacted about the abatement of asbestos which will take about three days and installing a new drop ceiling. Work is expected to be completed by Aug. 14.

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