The Franklin County Community School Board of Trustees voted for Franklin County High School students to return to in-person instruction, five days a week at its Monday, Feb. 8 meeting.

On Feb. 3, Governor Eric Holcomb and the Indiana State Department of Health released new protocol for quarantining and contact tracing, which allowed for this change to happen.

FCCSC superintendent Tammy Chavis released the following information:

1. FCHS will return to in person instruction five days a week, Thursday, Feb. 11;

2. Any student or staff member identified as a close contact within the school setting (classroom, cafeteria, school bus, etc.) will not be required to quarantine and will not be excluded from school or extracurricular activities;

3. Parents will be notified if their child is a close contact and may choose to quarantine.

4. Proper face coverings must be worn at all times, unless socially distanced at six feet.

5. Any student or staff member identified as a close contact outside of the classroom setting (extracurricular activities, athletics, band, choir, members of the same household) will be required to quarantine for 10 days.

6. Families will continue to be notified via email and text message regarding positive cases in school.

Exceptions will be based on knowledge gained on a case-by-case basis. Certain staff or students may be required to quarantine at the discretion of the school nurse, the Franklin County Health Department and/or the administration. K-8 students will continue to follow quarantining protocol when identified as a close contact and may remove face coverings when seated three feet apart and facing the same direction.

Students and staff are expected to follow social distancing protocol such as wearing face coverings, frequent hand washing and sanitizing and monitoring for symptoms. FCCSC will continue in-person instruction five days a week for grades 7-12 as long as it is safe. If the data does change, the hybrid schedule and/or quarantining may be reinstated.

While changes to the re-opening plan was on the agenda for the evening, the discussion was spurred by a concerned parent, Kelly Beckwith Bolser. Bolser has a student enrolled in FCCSC, and had originally opted for the in-person learning option. Bolser presented to the board statistics on COVID-19 numbers and what some of the surrounding schools were doing. She expressed concern over the mental health of students, those performing poorly academically and wanted to know why the high school had yet to return to in-person learning. 

FCCSC Board of Trustees president Sharon Wesolowski referenced the special board meeting held on Jan. 27 that revolved around getting students back in the buildings. 

“The idea that we don't want kids back in school is not right,” said Wesolowski. 

Wesolwoski explained that Chavis had every intention during the Jan. 27 meeting of getting students back in the classroom. However, during the 48 hours it takes to advertise a special meeting, there were some big changes. The Indiana state health commissioner Dr. Kristina Box made mention at Holcomb's press briefing that she was aware of some counties not following protocol in regard to quarantine and that they needed to get back to following the guidelines set in place. Wesolowski explained they needed to better understand the situation before moving forward. 

During the time of the special board meeting, the majority of the discussion was spent on Franklin County Middle School, which ultimately went back to in-person instruction. However, for the high school, the board knew there were a lot of test days approaching in the following weeks and wanted to create a situation best for the students. The matter was not voted on but rather tabled until the Feb. 8 meeting. This allowed the board to get past the testing days and use that week to get more information about quarantining. 

“Please put some faith in us that we are here to do the best for our children,” said Beth Foster, board trustee. 

Grant Reeves, board trustee, addressed some comments about a petition circulating that alleges the board attempted to cause harm to students both mentally and academically. Reeves, also an attorney and involved in many governmental entities, addressed the importance of civility and reaching out to those in charge. Wesolowski stated multiple times that anyone on the board or administration would be happy to address any concerns so misinformation does not get spread. 

As far as what in-person learning will look like on Thursday, mask breaks will be available throughout the day when possible, such as when socially distanced at six feet, at a socially distanced station set up in the classroom or in physical education or lunch.

The Centers for Disease Control, as well as the ISDH, still recommend a 14-day quarantine, but the schools are now allowed options. There are still some students who wish to do online learning because of potential pre-existing conditions, such as family members who are more susceptible to COVID-19, and those situations will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. 

“We are in a great place right now,” said Chavis. “I hope that continues and we can maintain the rest of the school year in person.”
Anyone with additional questions on the changes is encouraged to contact the FCCSC Administrative Office.