CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Third graders in Chesterfield County could return to school buildings within two weeks, after the school board voted to include them in cohort 2 of their “Project Restart” groupings, which school leaders said falls more in-line with state guidance.
Based off current health metrics, the Chesterfield Schools Health Committee recommended moving forward with the plan to begin the hybrid instruction model for pre-k through third graders starting as soon as October 12.
Tuesday, the school board voiced their support for the recommendation.
The decisions came on the same day nearly 1,000 students returned to Chesterfield Schools as a part of the phased cohort model previously approved by the school board. Cohort 1 included certain students with disabilities or IEP’s.
School leaders said the health metrics in Chesterfield are looking solid. During a presentation to the school board, officials said the number of COVID-19 cases per 100k people stands at 8.3, and the percentage of positive tests in the Chesterfield Health District is currently 4.3 percent.
Under the hybrid learning plan, students who chose to return to school buildings will receive in-person instruction two days per week and continue to learn at home the other three. Families are given the option to continue with fully virtual instruction if they chose.
Several Chesterfield teachers spoke out at Tuesday’s meeting, saying virtual instructions was going well and asked the School Board to delay in-person instruction while the virus was still spreading in the community.
“We can’t go face to face full time yet. I want to do that, but I really wonder if this hybrid learning is giving us what we get with virtual,” said Shannon McCauley, English Teacher in Dale District.
Others voiced concern about health and safety of students and staff once in-person instruction begins.
“Is two weeks enough time to ensure the cleaning and disinfection of schools, which another key mitigation factor put forward by the state, is actually effective?” said Sonya Smith, President of the Chesterfield Education Association.
Chesterfield school leaders said they are taking the proper precautions to fully sanitize school buildings per state guidance and urged staff members to stay home if they feel sick.
“If we are truly invested in bringing kids back and bringing them back safely and quickly, we do require our staff to stay home if you are ill. We encourage you to do so,” said Dr. Thomas Taylor, Chesterfield Schools Deputy Superintendent.
School leaders said as of Tuesday they had finally hired enough nurses so that every school has one assigned to it full time.
If the health metrics worsen, officials said they will re-evaluate their reopening options. The goal is to phase in the remaining cohorts every two weeks, with all grades back in school by mid-November, Chesterfield schools said.