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County schools focus on safety for return to school

Students in Franklin County Schools returned to classes Thursday, and FCS Superintendent Greg Hamilton said at the board’s regularly scheduled meeting that the school system is as ready as it can be.

“We are far better prepared in August than we were in March,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said each school will have a machine to check temperatures, make sure everyone is wearing masks and can also double as a metal detector.

Sanitation stations are available throughout the school and on buses.

Class sizes have been cut down, with seating charts enforced. Schools have eliminated changing classes wherever possible. Hamilton said these changes will help with narrowing down which students need to quarantine, if there is a positive case of COVID-19. The hope, of course, is that there will never be a need to quarantine an entire class, which Hamilton said would happen at three positive cases, in accordance with ADPH guidelines.

“We have made every single effort and precaution that we know how to make,” Hamilton said. “We are just going to take things one day at a time and go from there. We feel as prepared as we possibly could be.”

Hamilton said some details regarding busing and drop-offs will be ironed out in the upcoming weeks, with the biggest challenges being at Tharptown and Phil Campbell because of the possibility of double bus routes.

Drop-off times have also been staggered to limit the number of students in one area at a time.

In addition to using hydrostatic machines to disinfect, UVC lighting will be purchased to go in HVAC systems. This will kill germs as the air re-circulates through the ductwork.

FCS board member Pat Cochran said the UVC lighting will be beneficial during the COVID-19 pandemic but will also be helpful in combating other illnesses. “Everyone knows we always have a terrible time with the flu, so hopefully that can help with that too,” Cochran said.

The total cost for this instillation will be $190,000, but TVA is helping fund the cost by giving a $30,000 return check toward the UVC lighting.

FCS has also hired additional substitutes and nurses at each school. The TRACKS After-School Program will be limiting attendance to 10 people per classroom, including the teacher.

In athletics, bleachers will be blocked off similar to how they were at graduation, with every other bleacher blocked off and 6-foot distancing between seating areas. Hamilton said he is also encouraging all schools to move the band to the end zone, to allow them to spread out and to accommodate for more people in the bleachers.

A big step has also been taken in terms of technology, as after FCS receives its next shipment of Chromebooks, the system will be able to implement a one-to-one ratio of students-to-Chromebooks.

Hamilton said the system has 2,700 devices for its 3,600 students, and the final shipment of Chromebooks is expected after Christmas. “We were hoping to have these in by the time school started back, but there have been issues with shipping,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said he wanted to thank everyone for their patience and their willingness to work hard during this time to ensure as smooth of a start to the school year as possible.

“It’s going to be a little different, but it’s our hope and prayer that after nine weeks, things will go back to normal,” Hamilton said.

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