HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Hundreds of students are on a waitlist for the Henrico Virtual Academy as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise just weeks ahead of the first day of school.
As first reported by Henrico Citizen, thousands of Henrico parents decided early this year to send their children back to school in person this fall.
Many of them made that decision under the impression that masks would be required for elementary students, who are not yet eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
That includes Sara Jamal’s youngest child who will begin third grade on September 8.
“My youngest actually has a chronic medical condition and he does attend Rivers Edge which is the largest elementary school in the county,” Jamal said. “I felt a little bit more confident in my decision to send my child back to school. Since then, now the mask debate came up and the health committee said they were potentially looking at not making masks universal or mandatory, I’m having to revisit that decision.”
Last month, school leaders told parents that masks would be optional for students this year.
Now, about 800 children sit on the virtual academy’s waitlist, according to Henrico School spokesman Andy Jenks.
“It’s a work in progress with about four weeks still remaining between now and the beginning of school. As we’re able to balance staffing for in-person as well as virtual learners we’ll work to accommodate the HVA waitlist," Jenks told CBS 6 in an email on Wednesday. "It would also be fair to say that we’re working with individual families to understand their needs, particularly when it comes to health concerns, medical requirements and the always-changing nature of the pandemic. As the summer goes on, we hope to be able to balance staffing in order to accommodate the wait list."
“[The academy] probably won’t be something that will work out for him. So, at this point now I feel like my decision is going to be if they don’t have masks in place, should I send him back to school or should we homeschool?” Jamal asked.
Henrico Education Association posted information for a Rally For Masks event on their Facebook page. The rally is scheduled to take place at 11 a.m. on Thursday at New Bridge Learning Center ahead of the school board’s meeting.
The school board is expected to revisit the mask guidance, especially after the CDC issue updated guidance recommending all students wear masks inside the classroom regardless of vaccination status.
“I debated putting [my son] on the waitlist,” Jamal explained. “But I have hope in the school board that they will do the right thing and it will be a moot point.”
A petition circulating on social media calls for student’s choice surrounding masks in Henrico Schools.
“No family is exactly the same and a one-size-fits-all policy does not accommodate the widely varying and unique needs our children have not only for their health but also their education.' the petition read.