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Franklin County high school, middle schools go virtual Friday due to COVID
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Franklin County high school, middle schools go virtual Friday due to COVID

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Franklin County High School and the district’s middle schools will switch to all virtual learning starting Friday in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

In-person instruction is scheduled to resume Tuesday, Franklin County Superintendent Bernice Cobbs said in a statement released Thursday afternoon. The shutdown is happening in consultation with the Virginia Department of Health, she said.

In addition to shutting down the high school, Benjamin Franklin Middle School and the Gereau Center, the district is canceling all co-curricular and extra-curricular activities starting 4 p.m. Thursday.

That means the Friday night football game between Franklin County and Salem is postponed.

According to the school system’s COVID-19 dashboard, 64 high school students have tested positive from the beginning of August through Sept. 1. In that same time, 72 Benjamin Franklin students have tested positive, including 13 on Sept. 1, while the Gereau Center had 16 students test positive in August.

In the face of angry criticism from parents and activists opposed to mask mandates, the county School Board adopted a compromise on Aug. 9 that required masks for all students and staff but explicitly stated that no documentation would be required for those seeking exemptions.

At the Aug. 25 meeting, staff revealed that at least 1,225 students had mask exemptions – about 20% of the student body – as opposed to 15 in the previous school year. In that same meeting staff shared that more then 600 middle and high school students were in quarantine.

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Mike Allen is the editorial page editor for The Roanoke Times. His past beats as a Roanoke Times reporter included Botetourt County, Franklin County, courts and legal issues, and arts and culture.

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