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As COVID spikes, Chesterfield Schools return to virtual learning

Chesterfield Schools 01.jpg
Posted at 11:52 AM, Nov 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-25 23:55:45-05

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Students at Chesterfield Public Schools will not return to classrooms again this year. The county announced Wednesday it would switch back to all-virtual learning after Thanksgiving break.

"This return to an all-virtual learning environment, due to public health data reflecting a worsening pandemic locally, will last at least through the end of the first semester (Jan. 29)," a Chesterfield Schools spokesperson wrote in an email.

The county said it based its decision on the rising number of COVID cases.

"Virginia Department of Health data released earlier today showed that Chesterfield County has exceeded the seven-day rolling average of 25 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents (at 26.5 as of Nov. 25) that Chesterfield County Public Schools targeted as a metric to return to an all-virtual learning environment," the email continued. "The increase in local COVID-19 cases has been swift. One month ago, Chesterfield’s seven-day rolling average was 13.2. Today it is 26.5."

After starting the school year virtually, Chesterfield began reopening classrooms to younger students in October.

Middle and high school students were given the option to return to classrooms earlier in November.

Meanwhile CBS This Morning COVID-19 expert Dr. Ashish Jha believes the nationwide data favors sending students back to school, especially those in kindergarten through 8th grade.

"I’m not saying open schools and do nothing. You’ve got to mitigate. You’ve got to have mask wearing. You’ve got to have some amount of distancing. You’ve got to be able to open windows or have reasonable ventilation, but it turns out those are actually things that people can do in schools that people at home are not doing at home in the same way," Dr. Jha said.

Some Chesterfield County parents say they like in-person learning more than virtual learning, despite the risks.

"The in-person is just so much better for the kids instead of sitting in front of a computer for 5-6 hours a day," Timothea Moore said.

Some Chesterfield teachers said they saw this coming.

“I think the exhaustion from the beginning has been the sense that the decision makers have not been listening to the public and not listening to the science," Emma Clark said

As it stands now, only Cohort No. 1 students (Level 2 special education students) would be allowed to return to school for in-person instruction when school resumes Monday.

Both Richmond and Henrico County Schools have remained virtual during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In-person learning is continuing in Hanover County Schools, but the school system recently emailed a warning to families:

Over the past few weeks, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases reported in Hanover County," the email read. "The data indicates that the vast majority of these cases are a direct result of community spread at social events where youth and/or adults gather and do not take the necessary health precautions, such as wearing a mask and maintaining proper social distancing. This includes indoor and outdoor gatherings and sporting events, children playing in neighborhoods, sleepovers, and other recreational activities.

These choices are having a direct impact on the number of cases reported in our schools, which is also rising, particularly within our high schools. This also has a direct impact on our ability to continue providing in-person instruction.

We are doing our part, and we ask that you do yours. Our faculty and staff are working tirelessly each day to help ensure our buildings are as healthy and safe as possible. Our health mitigation strategies are working. The spread of COVID-19 within our schools is very low, and we have not experienced widespread COVID-19 outbreaks. However, we cannot control what occurs beyond our walls, and this is where we need your help.

Your choices affect others, so please choose wisely. We understand that everyone is weary from the pandemic and craves normalcy. However, we must remain vigilant, especially as we head into the holiday season. Vigilance helps to protect everyone. Vigilance keeps our students healthy and ready to learn. Vigilance helps to keep our teachers and staff healthy so they can provide our students with the high-quality instruction, support, and opportunities that they need and deserve. Vigilance helps to keep our schools open.

This is a developing story.