Franklin County teachers have had to get creative in how they’re reached out to parents and students during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.
“We have used any kind of online platform that teachers were familiar with,” Assistant Superintendent Sue Rogers told the Franklin County School Board during Monday night’s regular meeting.
Like their counterparts in adjacent counties, the school board unanimously approved a host of measures Monday night designed to adjust policies during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.
“I would just like to take a minute and thank all of our staff and faculty for the tremendous job that they are doing,” said school board Chair Julie Nix. “Teachers deserve an A++ this year. They’ve been phenomenal.”
The board passed a resolution that allows Superintendent Mark Church to suspend any county school policy that contradicts Virginia Department of Education edicts spurred by the COVID-19 situation. “We’re going to go off what the department of education recommends,” Church said.
Tuesday, classes switched from review to direct instruction of new, essential material for the final weeks of the 2019-20 school year. “The high school, the middle school and some of the elementaries, for our students that are not connected to the internet, they have downloaded videos onto the hard drive on Chromebooks, and have started distributing the Chromebooks” to those students, Rogers said.
Students in Franklin County Public Schools will complete their courses for the year with a rating of “P” for pass, “F” for fail, or a “P” with an asterisk, which means their work is incomplete. “We’re going to do whatever it takes in order to help students complete the work,” Rogers said.
High school seniors and their parents will have an option to receive a grade based on their coursework as of March 13 instead of a pass. “We will have a waiver process so that they can make that decision,” Rogers said. “It could make a difference with a student being an honor graduate or not.”
Calling Monday’s meeting a “regular meeting” only fits in terms of where it fell in the schedule. School board members and staff were spaced well apart in the meeting hall, while some were cloistered in separate rooms, speaking to each other using video conference software, which was also used to livestream the meeting on the school system’s website and Facebook page. Most of the school board members with activated video feeds were wearing protective face masks and gloves.
Superintendent Mark Church wore a colorful mask sporting a video game controller pattern, made by Blackwater District representative Arlet Greer. Gills Creek representative Jon Atchue participated via video from his house, citing illness.
“How are you feeling?” asked Rocky Mount representative Jeff Worley.
“Two days with no fever, I’m okay,” Atchue said.
Tuesday, Atchue wrote via email that he had no breathing difficulties and believed he’d had a bout with the flu. “I’m feeling much better now.”
At the end of Monday’s meeting, Worley thanked Church for postponing his announced retirement from August until December. “I’m sure he was excited to enter the retirement world, and then things changed and he very graciously agreed to stay with us and help us through this tough time.”
“It is my pleasure,” Church replied.
The search for his replacement is expected to resume in the summer.
The school system has created a central webpage for COVID-19 related announcements with information in both English and Spanish at https://www.frco.k12.va.us/coronavirus.
Video of the meeting can be viewed at https://youtu.be/RlPdXRlsptE.