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Chesterfield Approved New School Reopening Guidelines

school buses
At Tuesday’s Chesterfield School Board meeting, board members approved a color-coding system they’ll use to determine when it’s safe to send students back to in-person instruction. When that happens, school buses like these seen here at Midlothian High School, will hit the road. (Photo: Ian Stewart/VPM News)

The Chesterfield School Board approved reopening guidelines based on metrics from a newly created public health committee Tuesday.  The system uses color-coding to give a visual indicator of in-person instruction safety.

Chesterfield Student Health Coordinator Nick Oyler is one of several people on the committee. He said the metric will focus on three data points: cases, testing and hospitalization. And he said that each point will be assigned a value using a green to red coloring system.

“Each data point will be assigned value using a green to red coloring system to fit the phased in approach options discussed in Chesterfield,” Oyler said.

Oyler said the goal of the color coding was to provide an objective and easy to follow metric based on publicly available health data. That data comes from the Virginia Department of Health and metrics provided by Harvard Global Health Institute and the University of Virginia.

According to the district, groups of students based on grades will be allowed to return to face to face instruction when certain colors are reached, and when the metrics remain stable or trend downward.

For instance, if the current data trend remains the same or goes slightly downward, then some students with disabilities will be allowed to return in person learning on September 8. When the color changes again, Pre-K through second grade would open, and so on.

Currently, Oyler said Chesterfield is in “orange,” which comes with a recommendation for virtual classes. He also gave current numbers on COVID-19 in school age children.

“It’s important to note that during five months of school closures, 641 school age children have a confirmed Covid-19 diagnosis in the Chesterfield Health District,” Oyler said.

Oyler says each of those cases would have required quarantine. 

The school board will meet every two weeks to look at the metrics.  

Parents also have the option of strictly keeping their children in virtual school all year long, whether school doors reopen or not. 

However, the level of support will vary depending on grade level. All elementary school-aged children will attend classes similar to what’s expected this fall. Secondary students would have to access curriculum via the district’s “ CCPSOnline” which are pre-recorded instruction modules which may not meet all the students’ requirements to graduate. 

Family Support

The district said they’ll be offering help to families for the upcoming virtual start. 

“What [does] a distraction free environment look like, how do you best set up a learning atmosphere in your home,” said Communication Director Tim Bullis.

Bullis said other tools to help parents include guidance on how to develop time management routines, how to operate Chromebooks and how to navigate learning apps such as Canvas, which all of the county’s students will have to log into daily.

Other help for families include allowing students to access online teacher help after normal hours. 

Lastly, the district is working with the YMCA and other licensed daycare providers to offer childcare in some empty school buildings. 

School Board Chair Debbie Bailey said she wanted to dispel some myths she was reading online.

“The state requested that localities continually explore childcare support for childcare workers. Each inquiry has been reviewed but no agreement has been established,” Bailey said.

Bailey added any childcare set up would be only in certain high school spaces, such as cafeterias and gymnasiums, and that the number of children who attend such a program is nothing like having the entire school population back on campus. 

Bailey said all the board members want students and staff back in school, but only when it’s safe. 

 

Ian M. Stewart previously was the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News.
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