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Hopewell to resume Monday after virus forced school system to cancel all classes

Hopewell Schools Staff COVID testing.jpg
Posted at 9:52 AM, Aug 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-22 14:47:54-04

HOPEWELL, Va. -- A Virginia school system forced to cancel all classes Friday because of staffing shortages related to the coronavirus pandemic will reopen Monday.

Hopewell City Public Schools (HCPS) said it was forced to close all of its schools Friday because staffing had been severely hampered by COVID-19 cases and related quarantines.

After hundreds of staffers were tested Friday in coordination with the health department, the school district announced classes will resume Monday.

"We appreciate the patience of our families and are prepared at this time to adequately staff all HCPS buildings next week," district officials posted on the school system's website.

However, officials noted the virtual program originally slated to start Monday would be delayed one day, so staffers can make sure students "have the appropriate tools and technology to start virtual learning on Tuesday."

"We appreciated your patience as we worked to expand the virtual opportunity to more students," officials said.

As a result, all in-person students should report to school Monday, officials said.

Accordingly, with both in-person and virtual options available as of Tuesday, "each student is expected to attend instruction," administrators 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," Katrina Saphrey, an epidemiologist, said.

She noted that the majority cases were community-acquired.

A school board meeting to discuss the virus-related closure is scheduled for Monday evening.

The Hopewell district serves more than 4,000 students.

News release from Hopewell Schools:

There are so many different ways to interpret information in these crazy times of COVID and to help make things as clear as possible We want to provide some further information to help clarify last Friday's closing and the re-opening on Monday. As always, we are so appreciative of your love, support and grace. We hope this information is helpful.

1. Friday was a day in which we needed to close because the number of staff who were out was impacting our ability to safely operate school. We weren't sure at that point when we would have adequate staff back, but we consulted with VDOE and the VDH as we monitored this and all of our relevant health data. We were reassured that our other health data did not suggest a need to close and so we focused on the ability to staff our schools, not knowing yet on Friday morningwhen that would be.

2. Friday's staff absences were a combination of Covid related quarantines, some positive cases, and also routine staff sick leave requests.
3. The Covid Testing event was not conducted because of those already out on quarantine OR suspected in any way as positive or at risk. Rather, it was a proactive mitigation strategy that VDH initiated in order to allow any staff willing to volunteer to ensure they were not positive, in light of not presenting any symptoms. We will address those cases (if any present) on Monday when we have results. Again, we have no reason to suspect any people tested Friday are positive.

4. Upon review of anticipated staff absences on Monday, the numbers are much better and more realistic for adequately staffing classrooms. This is primarily attributed to less people requesting leave Monday (sick or personal) AND a number of staff who will, after the 3 days this weekend, come back from their required quarantines.

5. In the future, we plan to increase routine testing of staff, as recommended by VDH and CDC as a mitigation strategy. This is a way we can better know any possible asymptomatic cases and lessen possible transmission.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.