The head of the Franklin Special School District said Monday he is optimistic that the district will at least get the 2020-21 school year off to a normal start, with all students being able to attend as they did before the coronavirus outbreak caused schools to close in March.
A big reason for that optimism, FSSD Director of Schools David Snowden said, has to do with the size of the district’s eight schools.
“We’re very optimistic we’ll be able to open schools and have every student every day,” Snowden said at Monday night’s Board of Education meeting. “We’re poised to be able to do that, and a lot of that has to do with our size. Three elementary schools have about 320 students, two elementary schools are relatively large with 500. Popular Grove Middle has less than 400, and [Freedom Intermediate] and Freedom Middle each has about 600 students.
“We can do some things with social distancing, we can do some things in creating scheduling. At the end of the day, I think we’re in a much better situation than some of the larger school districts and larger schools. We’re very optimistic that we’ll be able to return to school with every child every day. That’s our goal anyway.”
Monday night’s regularly scheduled monthly board meeting was held at Poplar Grove Elementary and was the first to be held in person since March 9. Board members met virtually for the April and May meetings, just as most meetings across the country and the world have been conducted over the past few months.
Social distancing protocol was in place Monday night, and there were about 20-25 people in attendance.
Snowden was also a panelist Monday morning on Franklin Tomorrow’s FrankTalks session, where he said extensive planning is taking place this week among district leaders to prepare whatever scenario might occur for back-to-school in August.
He also expressed caution.
“Even if we’re able to start [normally] in August, at some point we do believe there will be another situation, unfortunately, when we have to have an extended closure,” Snowden said at the virtual FrankTalks. “Our plan is to be better than we were during the first extended closure, as far as being able to provide digital lessons to a larger population.”
One of the ways toward improvement is to provide students in kindergarten through second grade with Chrome tablets and to improve Chrome book usage for students in higher grades. Snowden said Monday night that the estimated cost for the K-2 tablets is $320,000, and the money would come from the $388,000 the district expects to receive through the federalCoronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Snowden also said at the board meeting that school buildings are now open on a limited basis for safety and health, and that Mercy Community Healthcare will soon start their counseling program at school sites. Counselors will be coming to the schools and can arrange with parents to offer counseling for their children.
“We think this is extremely important for those students who need the counseling services,” Snowden said.