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School systems finalize ‘road to reopening’

It is finally time for schools to reopen, and Franklin County Schools and Russellville City Schools are both ready to begin in-person education while incorporating online options.

About 20 percent of FCS and 10 percent of RCS students have opted for a virtual learning option as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

“I think everyone understands how difficult of a time this is and how we are all doing our best,” said FCS Superintendent Greg Hamilton. “We just want to give all of these students a good education and keep them safe.”

All students in second grade through 12th grade, as well as administration, faculty and staff, will be required to wear masks in classrooms that are not set up for social distancing, as mandated by the state mask order.

RCS Superintendent Heath Grimes said although he knows many people are not fans of wearing masks, he believes it is the right decision to require students to wear masks in instances where they cannot social distance.

“We have seen that masks and social distancing are the best things we can do to stop the spread,” Grimes said. “We really feel like doing this is going to give us our best chance at being able to offer in-person schooling.”

Hamilton said he knows how difficult a decision it is for parents to determine whether in-person schooling is the right option for their children, but he encourages parents to have faith in the schools.

“I have a child in the school system who I am having to make these decisions about as well,” Hamilton said. “In this case, I feel like I am a good example of how much faith I have in our schools and how hard we are working to keep these kids safe.”

Grimes said when the idea of social distancing in classrooms first came up, many believed it was not possible; however, teachers have found a way to accommodate social distancing in almost all classrooms.

“I think most people thought of a traditional seating plan and thought classrooms just couldn’t hold this,” Grimes said. “Well, they can’t spread that many students apart if students are staying in rows – but no one said it had to be that way.”

Grimes said the entire room will be utilized to ensure students are spread apart at all times, and all unnecessary furniture is being removed to ensure a proper amount of space.

“I feel like the closer we get, the teachers are really starting to see that we can do this, and we can make this work,” Grimes said. “Of course, there are going to be some challenges, but I am very optimistic going forward.”