Franklin board updated about school plans if shutdown lingers

School will be in session for Franklin School District students by April 13 even if the statewide shutdown hasn’t ended.

Substitute superintendent Pat Gavin told school board members during a sparsely populated meeting Monday that district teachers are being prepared to take their curriculum online with a platform called Google Classroom.

The meeting included social distancing for both those in the audience whose chairs were placed several feet apart and board members who sat one person to a table.

Gavin said that despite hopes the statewide school shutdown will only last until Gov. Tom Wolf’s most recent projection of April 6 for teachers and April 9 for students, the district is preparing for the worst-case scenario.

To accomplish this, a day in the near future is being eyed when students who don’t already have a school provided Chromebook at home may pick one up. Gavin said a robo-call would be disseminated to parents when the date is determined.

Board president Brian Spaid used his time during the “concerns for the board” period of the meeting to reiterate a mantra he has discussed in previous meetings.

“To get through this we need to work together,” Spaid said. “We’re very concerned for the education of our students, and to get through this we have to give (teachers, staff and school officials) some patience.”

Spaid said that when an online curriculum is developed, the learning materials, content and implementation need to be “fair” across the student population.

“We’re hoping to be able to accomplish that task,” Spaid said.

In other business at Monday’s meeting, board members decided to table an item that would have green-lighted several teachers to administer summer school.

“How are we going to determine who goes (to summer school),” Spaid asked.

More questions arose when board members noted the list of subjects didn’t include physical education. Gavin said the position was advertised within the district, but no one applied.

Gavin said the district will now turn to outside advertising to see if a teacher can be found.

“A lot of kids use that summer school P.E. program to condense their schedules,” board member Erin Leccia pointed out.

Because the position will still need to be filled, and in light of the unpredictable nature of the school year, a decision was tabled and will be up for vote in a later meeting.

Questions also arose when members voted to approve a $1,310.05 supplemental contract to Debbie Phipps as head coach of seventh and eighth grade girls track.

“If the sport doesn’t go on they don’t get paid, right,” Spaid asked.

Several other contracts have already been awarded for spring sports, and they are hanging in the balance if students don’t return to school in the near future.

Further discussion on the matter was held for an executive session.

In other matters, approval was granted to the Regional Counseling Center to establish a school-based outpatient mental health therapy program at the junior/senior high school starting in the fall. This will help ensure that students using these services don’t miss large chunks of school time to attend offsite appointments.

There will be no cost to the district for the program.

Franklin High School will host the Pennsylvania Music Education Association Region II Choir Festival March 11-17, 2021. Rocky Grove and Cranberry high schools will serve as co-hosts.

The board approved the $20,729 purchase of new lights for Sandycreek Elementary. This will be paid from the capital projects fund.

And the panel also approved the retirement of Joan Hasley, a custodian who has been with the district 11-and-one-half years; and the resignation of aide Nicole Cherry Smith.