Franklin County sees fewer students choose virtual

Franklin County Schools returned to the classroom Tuesday, ready to take on a new semester with ever-increasing knowledge and confidence about how to handle an education system challenged by a relentless global pandemic.

County students returned to school after a longer-than-usual Christmas break – something FCS Superintendent Greg Hamilton said he hopes will help curb the number of positive coronavirus cases in schools.

“We expect to see an increase in positive cases following the holidays, so hopefully having some extra time away will allow everyone a chance to get over that sickness so it isn’t brought into schools,” Hamilton said.

FCS returned Jan. 19, almost two weeks after most school systems, including Russellville City Schools.

Hamiltons said the system did not have a lot of trouble with positive outbreaks with students, but several schools were required to move to virtual learning in the fall semester because of being short-staffed.

“If anything, last semester taught us to take things one day at a time and be prepared,” Hamilton said. “You never know who could get sick one day and what all that can cause.”

Hamilton said schools will continue to follow the same methods of instructions as in this past semester, with virtual and in-person students following the same path to allow for an easy transition if a student has to switch to virtual learning.

About 600 students in the system were participating in virtual learning in August, and Hamilton said going into the spring semester, that number is less than half, with about 250 students learning virtually.

Hamilton said these numbers are spread fairly evenly across all Franklin County schools, with each school having fewer students participating in virtual this semester than when school began in August.

“We have had to adjust some things throughout the semester, but overall I think we found something that works,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said schools will follow the same cleaning protocols this semester, and all students will continue following social distancing and masking guidelines.

“Everyone has done a great job, and we haven’t really had a problem as far as students keeping their masks on or people doing what they are supposed to do,” Hamilton said. “I think everyone understands now what we need to do.”

Hamilton said he is proud of the teachers and staff at FCS for their willingness to go above and beyond, especially during this difficult time. “The time and effort they have put into making this school year the best it can be is outstanding.”