What needs to happen before Chesterfield schools phase to in-person classes

Posted at 7:49 PM, Jul 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-21 19:49:50-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Leaders from Chesterfield County Public Schools voted to reopen via online classes for the fall 2020 semester and have outlined some of the initial requirements for an eventual return to in-person classes.

In a letter sent to parents Tuesday, Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty described the phased-in approach that the county will follow for the 2020-21 school year.

The phased-in approach begins in a virtual learning environment and, if appropriate, follows with the safe and timely transition of certain special education students and English language learners to classroom learning. The approach plans for a hybrid model of in-person and virtual learning that reintroduces cohorts of students to classroom learning while remaining in compliance with social distancing guidelines and ultimately returns all students interested in returning to in-school instruction.

"Two weeks ago, my leadership team and I were prepared to recommend to the School Board that we return for the 2020-21 school year in a hybrid model," Daugherty wrote, "allowing families to choose if they wanted to send their children back to school or remain in an enhanced online learning environment."

"Everyone wants schools to reopen. Everyone understands the importance of face-to-face instruction. However, if we know nothing else about COVID-19, we know this: That this is a fluid situation. Guidance changes. Recommendations change. And, science changes."

Within the past two weeks, COVID-19 numbers across Virginia and in Chesterfield County have changed.

"This is about scientific data and metrics. These need to guide. And, right now, scientific data continues to change, and the metrics do not exist," Daugherty wrote.

Daugherty said that schools will potentially be able to reopen for in-person classes if the following needs are met:

  • If you serve all students by only transporting just 26 students per bus instead of the usual 52-72 students. (We transport 48,000 students via bus each year).
  • If you can create an environment for 24 students where desks are 6 feet apart. That social distancing requirement significantly impacts the number of students we can have in our classrooms, which typically range from 750-1,000 square feet.
  • If you have students and staff wear masks. Yes, we believe that all students and all staff should wear masks. Doing so, though, with 24 5-year-olds in a kindergarten classroom for 6.5 hours a day could prove to be a challenge without proper training and parental support.

"Right now, we are not in a position to meet the IFs put forward by federal and state leaders. We need more information. We need more metrics. We need scientific data to guide us."

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