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As Franklin County plans to bring students back, teachers raise serious concerns

Some called the plan “reckless.” Others are simply resigning.
Published: Jan. 15, 2021 at 12:24 PM EST
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FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - Home, for Alisha Landry, is a stack of books.

“Yeah, you’re just kinda, you’re kinda the heart of the school,” she said Thursday.

Even in the midst of the pandemic, the Franklin County High School librarian says she loves her job. The current hybrid schedule and social distancing weren’t ideal in Landry’s mind, but it worked.

Franklin County’s new reopening plan, set to go into effect January 26, has her scared.

“Is it worth me dying? Is it worth my family getting sick?” she said.

The new plan calls for all students who want it to be back in class four days a week. Students will attend in-person Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Friday. They will be required to wear masks at all times, but there will be no social distancing on buses, and three-foot-social distancing only “where feasible” in school. With COVID-19 transmission still at high levels, the plan goes against the guidance from health experts at the Centers for Disease Control, Virginia Department of Health and and American Association of Pediatrics.

Alisha Landry is far from alone in her concern. Other teachers we spoke to describe the plan as “reckless.”

Letters shared with WDBJ7 from teachers to the school board say social distancing even three feet will be impossible in many classrooms, and students will be in that environment maskless twice a day, during meals.

The School Board originally approved the four-day-a-week plan in November. Monday of this week, three board members, including Jon Atchue, attempted to make a change.

“My view is, we’re part of Virginia, we need to be listening to the experts, the epidemiologists, the health care.”

The board rejected any changes, on a 5-3 vote.

Atchue says while he’s disappointed, he believes other board members are trying to do what they feel is best for the community.

“This is not an easy decision. You can slice this and dice this in so many ways, but everybody’s intentions are all the same.”

Staffers like Landry say they don’t see it that way.

“It comes down to, I’m not willing to risk my life for a school board that just sees me as a number,” she said.

That’s why this coming week in Franklin County High School’s library will be her last.

“I’m leaving education. I actually took a corporate job somewhere else,” said Landry. “It’s not the same. It’s not education, it’s not working with kids.”

WDBJ7 has reached out to other members of the Franklin County School Board who voted for the return to a four-day-a-week schedule. So far, we’ve not heard back.

One Franklin County school, Rocky Mount Elementary, is closed for a week because of a COVID outbreak in that school.

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