RICHMOND, Va. -- The start of a new year brings the return to school for thousands of area kids, an exciting yet unsettling prospect for many parents in the midst of a COVID-19 surge.
"It's definitely been on my mind a lot, the rising numbers," Richmond mom Theresa Kennedy said.
All children age five and up are eligible to be vaccinated but many still are not, particularly those in the 5 to 11-year-old age group.
In response to a heightened concern, school systems in the area will continue using a multitude of COVID mitigation strategies.
"The layered mitigation have been effective," Dr. Amy Cashwell, the superintendent of Henrico County Public Schools said.
Dr. Cashwell said kids and staff will wear masks in school and on buses, there will be increased cleaning protocols and contact tracing and they will continue to follow the CDCs old quarantine guidelines, which required 10-day quarantine. Newly released guidance recommends a five-day quarantine.
"What we are doing is we are continuing with the longer quarantine period right now given the transmission rates being so high," Cashwell said.
Cashwell also said the school system will provide take-home test kits for students and staff who may have been exposed.
"I think that's an important layer," Cashwell said.
Henrico is not one of the 10 Virginia school systems selected to take part in a test to stay pilot program that will offer close contacts the ability to test each night. If they test negative, they will be allowed to come to school the next day.
Richmond Public Schools have ordered 25,000 additional tests and will be one of the first in the state to start the test to stay program on January 10.
"That test to stay program is designed to help alleviate the need for students who have been exposed but they aren't vaccinated to have to quarantine," Cashwell said.
RPS is also handing out tests on Sunday at four different schools to encourage families to test kids before sending them to class on Monday.
The additional precautions are all measures that Theresa Kennedy hopes will keep her kids safe and in school.
"Many of us still have PTSD from having virtual school and jobs for a year. That was really, really hard," Kennedy said.
For more information about where you can get a test from RPS on Sunday, click here.