Special school board meeting called as hundreds of Franklin County students quarantine over COVID-19 concerns

Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 2:31 PM EDT
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FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - UPDATE: The Franklin County School Board held a special meeting Wednesday, August 25.

Click here to watch the meeting live.

ORIGINAL STORY: More than 300 Franklin County students are quarantined after COVID-19 cases began popping up last week.

The school district has a universal mask policy in place, but 20% of students are not wearing masks because of parents filing for religious or medical exemptions, according to school officials.

The administration says there were multiple community events last week, including sports, that could have contributed to the spread of COVID-19.

“My son started texting me he was scared, saying there was COVID in the school and kids were getting quarantined left and right, and he just was not comfortable being there,” says Franklin County parent Amy Rakes, whose parents live in her household, both with underlying health issues. “My kids don’t want to go back right now, I didn’t send them today, I don’t want to get in trouble, but I don’t want the COVID in my household either.”

Fall registration for the free Virtual Virginia online public school closed last month. Now, school administrators tell Rakes they are unable to enroll her children in the online option until next semester.

Rakes says she initially skipped the deadline and chose to send her sons to school in person so they’d get better grades.

“They just don’t do well virtual, but, I’d rather they fail a grade than get sick,” explains Rakes. “If they’re going to send them home, and they’re going to quarantine, I think they ought to be able to learn virtual. Even if they’re not sent home, and they’re scared to go to school because of it, I think they ought to be given the option.”

Rakes is hesitant to send her kids back to class, but any online option at this point would come at a cost.

“I know I can’t afford homeschool, so I don’t know what we’re going to do about it,” says Rakes. “I just think they ought to shut it down and go virtual instead of putting all those kids at risk.”

A spokesperson with the Virginia Department of Education tells us late registration for Virtual Virginia is extremely limited.

These slots are being awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, prioritizing students with medical conditions, military families, and transfer students.

Enrollment is still open for the Spring semester, and must be done through a child’s school division.

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