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Franklin Co. schools consider school options as COVID19 cases spike in the county

Outbreak tied to a long term care facility and the Franklin County jail

FRANKLIN COUNTY, VA. – On Monday night, some Franklin County school board members pushed for students to be back in the classroom sooner rather than later, as health officials in the area deal with a spike in COVID19 cases in the county.

The school board met in person Monday night as its secondary students have been fully online for the last week and a half. The school was operating with a hybrid in-person choice, but 30 staff members were home on quarantine due to possible exposures on Monday, an indicator the division was spread thin and could not support both in-person and online learning at the same time.

Superintendent Mark Church said transmission isn’t occurring at schools, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

“Right now we do have a spike in cases. For the longest time, we enjoyed actually not having a spike, so over the last week or two, our numbers have come up. We also look for those numbers to go down," Church said.

Over the last two weeks there have been more than 300 COVID-19 cases on average in the county, and more than 500 since Sept. 1. The division has seven students and four staff cases as of the latest update. The Virginia Department of Health said the recent spike in cases is associated with an unnamed long term care facility in the area.

Nancy Bell with the Virginia Department of Health said they’ve also been dealing with a backlog of cases that were not originally assigned to their proper jurisdictions. Bell hopes to have more information about the long term care facility in the coming days.

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office also dealt with an outbreak in the jail, although they said it is over. According to VDH, most patients had mild cases, or were asymptomatic entirely, and there were no deaths. Sgt. Megan Patterson with the Sheriff’s Office said the first case appeared at the end of September which then prompted further testing. They discovered more positives and took action to reduce the spread, including working with neighboring jails to handle the population.

Back at the school board they remain hopeful numbers will decrease. The board asked Church and other top staff to determine what it would take to get most kids back in the classroom full time, and it’s clear that will be no easy task.

“We had a principal today talk about a cruise ship and you can’t turn it around on a dime, it’s not as easy as it might seem to bring everyone back and follow the guidelines of social distancing,” Church said.


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