RCS pushes back first day, FCS tweaks return plans

*Editor’s Note: These meetings and discussions took place before the state mandated face masks must be worn by students. The local school boards have not met again since the announcement.

Students in Russellville City Schools will now be starting one week later, as the RCS Board of Education voted at the monthly meeting, held last week, to push school back in favor of adding five additional teacher days.

Teachers will now return Aug. 6, with school starting back Aug. 19, a week after the original start date of Aug. 12.

“We are keeping the original calendar the same, just pushing the start date back to add five teacher days,” said RCS Superintendent Heath Grimes. “Everything else is staying the same.”

Grimes said he feels confident adding the extra teacher days after talking to all RCS principals, who he says are all in favor of the extra teacher days.

Grimes said in addition to typical beginning of year activities, this will also give teachers additional time to prepare for the possibility of school being forced to go virtual.
RCS Board President Jerry Groce offered a thanks to teachers for the time they are putting into preparing for the return to school. “I have a lot of respect for everything you all do, but we are especially thankful for you during these unprecedented times,” Groce said.

Grimes said he has received several questions about whether RCS has considered going strictly virtual, but he said he is confident in the decision to return to school.

“For our healthy students, it is probably more dangerous for them to not have the education and the nurture that school can provide,” Grimes said. “I’m not saying the virus isn’t dangerous, but there are a lot of students for whom staying in their homes and not having school isn’t safe for them either.”

Grimes said of the 2,500 students enrolled in RCS, 250 have opted for the virtual option this semester.

“I don’t understand why, if we are offering a virtual option and only 10 percent sign up, and the rest of parents want their children to be back in school, why we would push being virtual,” Grimes said.

Grimes said he does expect numbers for virtual school to increase over requirements to wear a mask. If the governor extends the mask ordinance, students will be forced to wear masks, but Grimes said the board might re-evaluate its policy regarding masks even if the mask ordinance is not still in place. (*see Editor’s Note)

“Unfortunately that is something we do have to look at for the health and safety of our kids.”


Parents in Franklin County Schools are also getting a better idea what to expect for students returning to school Aug. 20 after a July 21 school board meeting.

In-person learning will begin Aug. 20, and remote learning will be offered for students to sign up for in nine-week increments.

“We are working to make what we feel like are the best decisions for our students,” said FCS Superintendent Greg Hamilton.

The remote learning option will also be used for students who are out of school because of COVID-19. Registration will take place through each individual school.

The virtual plan will include virtual components and paper assignments. To participate in virtual learning, children will need access to the internet and an electronic device with internet capabilities.

To stay in the virtual option, students must complete assignments and follow a schedule assigned to them.

Hamilton said students and employees are not required to wear masks but are encouraged to do so. (*see Editor’s Note) Daily cleaning protocols will be in place to help cut down on the spread of the virus.

Students will eat lunch in the cafeteria and continue to have P.E. time with social distancing and additional cleaning procedures.

Parents are encouraged to take their children’s temperature each day before sending them to school, and schools will be limiting entrance to non-school personnel.

Tharptown Elementary Principal Karen Thorn said she expects the biggest problems, especially with young students, will be social distancing.

“School is a place that elementary kids love because they are able to see their friends and they love their teachers,” Thorn said. “It will be hard for them to learn they can’t go up and give everyone a hug like they are used to doing.”

Thorn said she and her teachers are preparing for the new school year to start and learning ways to streamline the process because of the virus.

“This school year is going to be different with a lot of the things we are doing, but different doesn’t necessarily mean bad,” Thorn said. “Maybe through this we will come up with some processes that will make things easier overall that we continue to use.”

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