Franklin schools announce hybrid schedule for school restart

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FRANKLIN, Ind. — Franklin Community School officials announced they will be utilizing a hybrid schedule when classes resume August 17.

Students who have already chosen the virtual option will be able to continue with that plan.  

For those who opted for in-person classes, middle and high school students will be divided up by last name. Students with last names beginning with A through K will go to school Monday and Tuesday, then do eLearning at home Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Students with last names beginning with L through Z will do eLearning at home Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. They will go to school Thursday Friday.  

The schedule means all middle and high school students will be home on Wednesdays, which will be dedicated to deep cleaning of the buildings.

Elementary school students will not utilize the hybrid plan. For families who opted for in-person learning, elementary school students will be in school buildings five days a week. Families who chose the virtual option will still utilize that approach.

Franklin Community Schools Superintendent David Clendening said the district had planned to bring all students back into classrooms for the start of the year. However, the resurgence of COVID-19 cases around the state meant some late alterations.

“And it wasn’t just for the kids, it was for the teachers as well,” Clendening said. “The support staff, the custodians, the bus drivers.”

Clendening said district officials relied on guidance from the Johnson County Health Department in making the decision. Having half of the students in the buildings each day will make social distancing in classrooms, hallways and other common spaces more feasible.

“Decreases class size considerably and that enables a lot of these classes to be more socially distanced, which is the goal,” said Johnson County Health Officer, Dr. Craig Moorman.

“Mitigating the virus, getting in-person instruction and being able to create a safe environment,” Clendening said. “We look at the demographics of our students, but it’s also about our teachers and our bus drivers and making sure they’re safe.”

The decision to bring elementary school students back to school all week was based on several factors, Moorman and Clendening said. The younger students need much more supervision and seem to benefit less from virtual learning than older students. Elementary students can’t be left at home while parents go to work, while middle and high school students could, depending on the student.

Moorman also said there is scientific data to support the move.

“Studies from around the world have shown that the younger kids in a school setting don’t seem to spread it as much,” he said.

Part of the reason for that, Clendening said, could be that elementary students are more likely to spend much of the day in a single classroom, reducing their exposure to students and staff throughout the building.

“They’re going to stay in their classrooms,” he sad. “They’re not going to move all over like an older high school or middle school kid.  They’re going to be in their classrooms.”

Several central Indiana school districts have announced variations on the hybrid schedule plan this year. Carmel Clay, Noblesville, Lebanon, Western Boone and other districts will be utilizing a combination of in-person and virtual learning when classes resume.

Clendening said he understands that not everyone is happy with the concept.  

“I have the group of parents that say ‘go back to school and let’s just be normal,’” he said. “And I’ve got the other group saying ‘what are you doing, don’t have us come back to school.’”

A recent study of Franklin teachers showed 70 percent were concerned or very concerned about returning to the classroom, while a survey of student families showed support for going back to school. Roughly 16 percent of families opted for virtual learning.

“We want to get the kids back,” Clendening said. “But I also have a job to make sure that 51-hundred kids and almost 750 staff members all come together to create the safest learning environment.”

Clendening said the plan has flexibility built into it, and can be changed during the school year depending on COVID-19 data and trends.

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