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Chesterfield County schools to begin in-person reopening process

Longer school days for Chesterfield students
Posted at 10:52 AM, Sep 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-14 23:53:07-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Chesterfield County will begin their school reopening process on September 29, Superintendent Dr. Mervin Daugherty confirms to CBS 6.

That means students will be phased back into school in cohorts.

Daugherty says the board’s health committee, which analyzes the data and makes recommendations to the board, is going to recommend starting cohort 1 of the reopening process on September 29.

There will be two days of in-person synchronous learning and three days of asynchronous learning (including Wednesdays). Students would attend Monday/Tuesday and work asynchronously Wednesday/Thursday/Friday; or work asynchronously Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday and in person on Thursday/Friday.

Each cohort would be split into two groups, based off of their last name. The A-K group would be in school on Mondays and Tuesdays, the L-Z group would be in school on Thursdays and Fridays.

  • Cohort 2 would include all those in Cohort 1, plus all students in PreK to grade 2.
  • Cohort 3 would include all students in Cohorts 1 and 2, plus all students in grades 3 to 5.
  • Cohort 4 would include all students in Cohorts 1, 2, and 3, plus grades 6 through 12.

The metrics needed to reopen in-person learning includes cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 in Chesterfield County, the percent-positivity in the Chesterfield Health District, and the hospitalization rates in Central Region.

Each metric is graded on a color scale, with red indicating four-plus weeks of an upward trend, orange indicating two weeks of an upward trend, yellow indicating two weeks of a downward trend, and green indicating four-plus weeks of an upward trend.

The health committee says they made the decision based on an overall yellow internal data metric.

The committee says while some metrics increased slightly such as cases per 100,000 and percent positivity, they feel the county is performing better than the rest of the region and they felt comfortable reopening in phases.

Daugherty says the School Board doesn't have to vote on the recommendation as they have already agreed to follow the committee's recommendation.

"I’m excited. I think everybody is. You know, it’s a pandemic that nobody’s used to and everybody is working their way through it. But, I do think it’s a great opportunity have some students come back who are really excited about coming back,. And we do understand that there’s two sides," said Daugherty. "The side that would like my child to stay home and the side that would like my child to come back to school. So, we want to honor the parents and students in both areas."

Monday evening’s meeting was less contentious than the board’s July meeting when dozens of protestors shouted at each other outside, while parents lined up to address the school board inside.

Monday, only a few people addressed the board regarding the issue of reopening schools.

Going forward, the health committee will take a look at the data every two weeks and determine if the next cohort can begin some in-person instruction.

If there are no delays, the last cohort or group would begin face-to-face classes by early-to-mid-November.

Background on Project Restart

The board will meet at 3 p.m. and will be briefed on “Project Restart”, the framework it approved at its August 11 meeting, that establishes the metrics that need to be met in order to begin.

Those metrics are cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 in Chesterfield County, the percent-positivity in the Chesterfield Health District, and the hospitalization rates in Central Region.

Each metric is graded on a color scale, with red indicating four-plus weeks of an upward trend, orange indicating two weeks of an upward trend, yellow indicating two weeks of a downward trend, and green indicating four-plus weeks of an upward trend.

The board’s health committee, which analyzes the data and makes recommendations to the board, recommended that the board consider moving into the next phase of reopening when those metrics are in the low orange range. Meaning two of the three metrics are in the yellow or higher category.

That threshold was not met during the August 11 meeting, as while hospitalization rates were considered yellow, the case and percent-positivity metrics were considered orange.

At the board’s August 25 meeting, those metrics had flipped. With case and percent-positivity in the yellow, but hospitalizations in the orange.

However, the health committee recommended not proceeding with the first phase of reopening because of a metric from the Virginia Department of Health stating there was “substantial community transmission” in the Central Region.

It added the regional COVID-19 data did not look as favorable as the local and the committee questioned whether the county was ahead or behind the regional curve. It said there concerns the Labor Day weekend could lead to an uptick in all of the metrics and wanted to wait until the September 14 meeting to see what, if any, the impacts were.

For more information about Project Restart, click here.