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Franklin County schools transition to online learning as COVID-19 cases rise

Students set to return on October 19

Here's what happening outside of the classroom that's creating concerns
Here's what happening outside of the classroom that's creating concerns

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va – A rise in COVID-19 cases is causing several schools in Franklin County to transition to online learning later this week.

While the county only has 431 cases as of Tuesday, 88 of those are from the last week alone. The rise is mostly among people in the 18 to 24 age group. Nancy Bell with the West Piedmont Health District says its directly attributed to college students coming back to the area from their campuses.

“Folks aren’t wearing their masks, they are gathering in groups at restaurants outside thinking that’s OK and its not,” said West Piedmont Health District public information officer Nancy Bell.

Out of an abundance of caution, Benjamin Franklin Middle School, Franklin County High School and the Gereau Center will transition to online learning for just over a week.

The change is not because of transmission of the disease in the classroom, but because of a lack of staffing. Currently about 19 staff members are in quarantine.

“It’s not that we are over run with COVID, that’s not the issue, it’s that for the last week we’ve been peppered with one student comes in and they’ve gone to five different classes, five different classrooms so that’s five teachers at a minimum who could be exposed,” said Franklin County Schools superintendent Mark Church.

Church said one of the many struggles of online learning is access to internet in rural parts of the county. But he emphasizes the sooner people in the community lower the spread, the sooner students can return to in person learning.

“We’re doing what we need to do, we’re doing exactly the right thing to keep people safe and we’re not seeing transmission it’s the people who are outside of the school who are infected they are coming in,” Church said.

Students are set to return Monday, October 19.

About the Author:

Annie Schroeder joined the 10 News team as a reporter in June 2020 and is no stranger to Southwest Virginia.