HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- A decision by Henrico families on whether or not to send their children back to the classroom for the remainder of the school year would be binding, according to Henrico school leaders who addressed the issue at a townhall Tuesday. In a survey that was to be emailed out to parents this week, families would decide if children would continue with virtual learning or go back to the classroom for four days a week of in-person learning.
Henrico Director of High School Education Dr. Thomas Ferell Jr. said parents would need to be committed to their decision.
"We’re encouraging all of our families to be intentional about making a decision regarding their students return to in-person learning, or whether that student remains virtual," he said. "Once a decision is made, that will be a year-long commitment."
The townhall meeting came one week after the Henrico County School Board voted to expand optional in-person learning for students.
For younger students, in-person learning begins in November. Middle and high school students can return to the classroom as early as February.
Health Director Doctor Danny Avula said the decision came after a thorough evaluation of data that showed COVID cases were at a much lower place than at the May or August peak of the disease.
He also said the CDC and VDH had outlined five mitigation strategies that the Henrico School System planned to put in place -- like wearing masks, hand washing, distancing, cleaning protocols, and integration with local health departments around contact tracing.
"I feel like we're in a really good place," said Dr. Avula. "And when we identify a case -- which we inevitably will -- there's no way we're going to create a scenario where we don't have a case in school. But when we do identify a case, we'll be able to contact trace quickly and contain that spread of disease so we don't have mass spread in schools."
Chesterfield County Schools decided Tuesday to allow middle and high school students back to class in early November. Richmond Schools have not yet decided what to do with students in 2021.