ROCKY MOUNT – Superintendent Dr. Mark Church announced Thursday that all Franklin County Public Schools will be closed Friday, March 20. The day will be used as a teacher work day to prepare for possible at-home instruction and to clean buildings and buses, Church said in an e-mail to parents.
“FCPS considers the health, safety, and well-being of our students and staff our first priority,” Church said. “Given the recent elevated cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in our country and cases occuring in Virignia, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended that school divisions and school leaders prepare for all possibilities, including the need to close schools for an extended period of time… FCPS has developed a contingency plan to address the possibility of the need to provide instruction outside of the typical school classroom environment,” Church said.
Field trips outside of the local area have been cancelled as well, Church said. Athletic events will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Events and meetings with large groups of people have also been cancelled.
Below is the entire text of the e-mail sent out to parents today:
Dear FCPS Community,
Franklin County Public Schools (FCPS) will be Closed for Students on March 20, 2020 for a Teacher Work Day. Students will return on March 23rd to resume a normal schedule. We will use this day to plan for at home instruction and to do a deeper cleaning of our facilities and buses. If we have to close schools for an extended period of time we will notify you as soon as possible.
FCPS considers the health, safety and well-being of our students and staff our first priority. Given the recent elevated cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in our country and cases occurring in Virginia, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended that school divisions and school leaders prepare for all possibilities, including the need to close schools for an extended period of time. Based on CDC recommendations, FCPS has developed a contingency plan to address the possibility of the need to provide instruction outside of the typical school classroom environment.
If school is closed for an extended period of time, our teachers will be prepared to provide instruction through a variety of methods to your children. Parents will be an important part of the instructional process and we hope that you will take an active role to assist your children and their teachers to ensure that the learning continues. All of our students are provided a school email and many of our students have access to a computer and internet at home. Of course, we do realize that we have some students who do not. We have a plan for those students as well so teaching and learning will continue equitably. I have sent this information to our families both by email and actual letter. If you regularly receive our calls and emails you are fine. If not, please provide your school updated information. It is important that we have your correct contact information including email and phone number.
To assist us in curbing the spread of the virus and to keep our community safe, FCPS has initiated the following:
Effective March 13, 2020, all scheduled field trips to areas where cases have been confirmed will be cancelled. All scheduled field trips to areas outside of the immediate region will be cancelled.
Athletic/Co-curricular activities will be assessed on an individual case-by-case basis taking into consideration the proximity of identified cases.
Meetings or events with large groups will be cancelled unless it is absolutely necessary.
According to the CDC and VDH, the following steps can be taken by every individual to prevent the spread of flu and the common cold, which will also help prevent COVID-19:
Wash hands often with soap and water. If not available, use hand sanitizer.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid contact with people who are sick.
Stay home from work or school when you are sick and avoid close contact with others.
Cover your mouth/nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing.
I appreciate that the messaging about COVID-19 can be frightening and upsetting. Parents, you can help alleviate some fears and misconceptions by talking to your children about the virus and why the schools may need to close for a period of time. An article from the National Association of School Psychologists about how to talk to children about COVID-19 provides tips and strategies to equip us for what we already know: children look to trusted adults for guidance and emotional cues. Also, see the link Why Close Schools?
We are essentially preparing for an uncharted journey. Hopefully, like other preparedness plans, we are thoughtfully considering contingencies that will not be necessary. I will continue to update you as we receive more information. I appreciate that closing schools can be a huge inconvenience to families; thank you for your continued understanding and support.
Dr. Mark Church, Superintendent
Franklin County Public Schools