FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. – Students at three Franklin County schools returned to in-person learning on Tuesday following a four-day-long closure due to a high number of students and staff in quarantine.
The decision to close Franklin County High School, Benjamin Franklin Middle School and The Gereau Center was made with the help of the Virginia Department of Health.
“It’s not a decision that’s taken lightly, and we really want to try to do what’s best for our students but last week it really came down to the matter of staffing, and knowing that we had a large number of students out,” said Jason Guilliams, the school division’s director of operations.
He is in charge of contact tracing in the schools. Teachers help him with that process by keeping track of their students’ whereabouts using seating charts.
“It’s a difficult task for our administrators. Administrators are in constant contact with me. I assist them with contact tracing. I’m in daily contact with the Department of Health. You know it is a time-consuming endeavor,” he said.
On Tuesday, the number of students in quarantine went down more than 65% from last week; however, community transmission throughout the county is still a concern.
“The reality is we also have quite a bit of COVID in the community. Our community has been anywhere from 20% down to about 15% positivity rate up and down for the last few weeks,” said Guilliams.
Masks are required in Franklin County Schools, but there is no documentation needed for a mask exemption.
Officials said about 1,200 students and staff have an exemption from wearing a mask.
As far as if that will change, Guilliams said that decision is up to the school board.