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Rise in COVID cases led to Hopewell Schools' staffing shortage

Hopewell Schools Staff COVID testing.jpg
Posted at 2:00 PM, Aug 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-20 16:14:06-04

HOPEWELL, Va. -- Impacts of COVID-19 cases and quarantines were to blame for classes being canceled on Friday at Hopewell City Public Schools the district said.

The school district announced Thursday night that both in-person and virtual learning would be canceled due to a staffing shortage.

According to Hopewell School's COVID-19 dashboard, the school system currently has 79 positive coronavirus cases. Of those cases, 11 are staff members.

School leaders said they're working closely with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) to determine the best way to move forward while having students in person safely.

They are currently looking at three data points from the VDH and VDOE as guidance for safely operating schools with COVID. Those points are transmission rates within the community and school, the number of students absent and having enough staff.

The school district said there will be COVID testing Friday afternoon for all staff members at Hopewell High School from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

"The vast majority of all those identified by HCPS, whether it's the students, teachers or staff are mainly community-acquired versus transmission within the school building," Katrina Saphrey, an epidemiologist, said.

Hopewell returned to school in late July, becoming the first school system in Central Virginia to do so. However, since the beginning of the school year, there have been problems with COVID cases.

However, VDH said that the school system follows strict guidelines for cleaning.

"We're not seeing a lot of transmission within the school buildings, which means their mitigation strategies are working which is good," Saphrey said.

They added they will continue to work with VDH and VDOE into the weekend to determine if classes will be able to resume on Monday.

Tori Jarratt, the parent of a three-year-old, is concerned about what could happen if the school closes its doors.

"I'm worried they're going to try to go to virtual and I don't know how you're supposed to teach a three-year-old virtually, like he doesn't know his alphabet, how's he supposed to type on a keyboard. I just don't see how it's going to work," Jarratt said.