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Furlow Governing Board approves phased pandemic plan

The Furlow Charter School Governing Board held a called meeting Thursday, August 12 at 5:30 p.m. to discuss and vote on revisions to their pandemic plan.

Furlow Governing Board Chair Dr. John LeJeune started the meeting by explaining the purpose of the called meeting was to review the pandemic plan due the increase in the number of COVID positive cases and updated CDC guidance.  The current number of COVID positive cases per 100K is above the level in the current pandemic plan that should result in school closure according to the pandemic plan approved at the July 20th board meeting.  He supported the need for revising the plan because “The world looks very different now than it did July 20th when we last addressed this.”

Furlow’s Executive Director Dr. Lezley B. Anderson presented the summary of the pandemic plan to the Furlow Governing Board.  The plan consists of four phases, which are specifically detailed in the now approved plan that will be available on the Furlow website at www.furlowcharter.org.

Phase 1 is a COVID-free environment where no safety and mitigation protocols were present or pre-COVID.

Phase 2, which is Furlow’s current status, is where masks are recommended, water fountains are disabled for use, hand sanitizer is available in each classroom, classrooms are fogged daily, temperatures are checked for visitors, scholars eat in their classrooms, and PPE is available for all staff.

Phase 3 is where masks would be required for everyone, visitors are limited to office area and must be masked, students will be placed in cohorts in classes, lunch will be in classrooms for grades 2-12, and social distancing would occur in classroom, when possible.

In Phases 2 and 3, in-person learning is for everyone except for students who have applied for and been granted approval for online learning due to medical concerns supported by a medical professional.  Students who have to quarantine or isolate will utilize Google Classroom to continue their learning while they are not allowed on campus due to quarantining or isolating.

In Phase 4, Furlow Charter School would be closed to the public and all students would move to virtual learning through Google Classroom.  Students who have already been approved for virtual learning due to medical hardship would continue with virtual learning.

The Pandemic Plan – Phased Plan will use data based on COVID related absences to determine what specific mitigating efforts will be used by the school and what instruction looks like in each phase.  Furlow’s administration will look at the elementary numbers separate from middle and high school numbers.

Students who test positive for COVID and have to isolate will be assigned a value of 1 and students who are quarantining due to possible exposure will be assigned a value of 1/2 and totaled for the specific school (elementary or middle/high).  When this number divided by the total population of the specific school population (elementary or middle/high) exceeds 4%, the specific school/s (elementary or middle/high) would move to Phase 3.  When this weighted average of students exceeds 8%, the specific school/s would move to Phase 4.

Over a dozen parents and employees attended the meeting with two parents voicing their concerns during the public address portion of the meeting.

Dr. Brian Parkinson, who is a professor at GSW and a parent of a Furlow student, spoke about his desire for mandatory masking and how there is an increase in the number of children testing positive for COVID-19 at Phoebe Sumter.  He stated masking worked well at GSW last year and does not want school to be shut down.

Wesley Walls, who is a parent of three Furlow students, addressed his concerns regarding the cleanliness of the school and encouraged the Furlow Governing Board members to look in the bathrooms to see their current conditions.  He also expressed concerns regarding the scheduling issues at the school and how his daughter was told she needed to take an additional course to meet graduation requirements, which was not accurate.  His final concerns were teachers in Kindergarten through fifth grades have had no planning this week due to the cancellation of Bridges classes (art, music, and PE) resulting in students taking multiple recesses, and special services (Early Intervention Program, English as a Second Language, Gifted, Special Education, and Speech) not being provided the first week of school.

After public address, the Furlow Governing Board asked questions regarding the proposed phased pandemic plan and whether or not to include community spread numbers in addition to the school isolation and quarantine numbers.

After numerous questions and discussing whether or not to incorporate community spread data into the plan, Furlow Board Member Dr. Benjamin Meador, who is a professor at GSW, motioned to adopt the phased school plan as presented and make mandatory masking at community spread levels of 250 or higher along with the determination to return to Phase 3 from Phase 4 after one week and the weighted average being below 7.5%.

The school will calculate the weighted average for both schools (elementary and middle/high) using data they have at noon each day.  Parents will be notified of phase movements via automated messenger and with paper notification as well.

In the Pandemic Plan, faculty/staff absenteeism will continue to be an overriding factor in determining the movement between phases.

The Furlow Governing Board meets every third Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. in the Furlow Media Center.