FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. – Black and white, young and old, about three dozen people gathered at the Pigg River Community Center Thursday afternoon to listen to community leaders speak about topics related to the coronavirus.
The event was organized by the Franklin County NAACP chapter.
“We’re just trying to make it known that there is an NAACP chapter in Franklin County,” Franklin County NAACP President Walter Lawson Jr. said.
Questions for Franklin County Schools’ superintendent, not all of which were related to the virus, however, took up the bulk of the hour-long event.
The first question was about recruiting teachers.
“What plans are you guys making to go out to HBCUs,” an attendee asked.
“I’ve personally gone with our HR director to historically black colleges to be able to recruit,” Superintendent Dr. Mar Church said. “When we recruit out of colleges, it’s hard to pull someone out of their home environment.”
But as far as how many teachers have been recruited from HBCUs? The superintendent didn’t have an exact number to give.
Another person wanted to know what punishment someone will receive if they show up to school wearing something with the Confederate battle flag now that the school board has banned it
“There will be discipline. I can’t exactly say what the discipline is,” Church said.
Regarding the virus, one man wanted to know what will happen to teachers if they have to stay home because someone in their classroom tested positive.
“Are they going to be paid if they don’t have enough sick leave?” the man asked.
“Hopefully, what we’re going to be able to do, let’s cross our fingers, is that that individual can go home and get online and still direct class,” Church responded. “We have up to two weeks that everyone has to pay for COVID-related expenses.”
Other questions included what is being done to accommodate special needs students and how the district is addressing a concern that students are falling behind since they’ve had to learn from home while schools are closed.
The climax of the news conference was a rousing speech by Roanoke NAACP President Brenda Hale. Her speech included reciting the names of African Americans killed in recent years.
“Their names mean something. Their Black lives matter,” said Hale.
Volunteers were also on hand to help people become members of the Franklin County NAACP and register to vote.