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Chesterfield Schools Could Have Students Back In Classrooms By End of September

Chesterfield School
Though recent Covid-19 data is trending downward, some numbers are still fluctuating. A school health committee recommended the school board still have a virtual start to school on September 8. (Photo: Ian Stewart/VPM News)

Based on recommendations from a health committee, the Chesterfield County School Board has decided to continue with its plan to have students return to school virtually on September 8.

But Deputy Superintendent Thomas Taylor, who spoke on behalf of the committee, said if COVID-19 cases continue to trend downward, students could return to in-person learning as early as September 29.

“If data is trending down and holding steady, it gives us a window to introduce cohorts back to school. But if we see swings in data, day to day, it could--make the difference,” Taylor said in a meeting Tuesday.

Other bumps along the road to opening the doors to schools revolve around the upcoming Labor Day weekend. Taylor said the county could see an uptick in cases after the holiday, and that the school district is still about a month away from being fully staffed with contact tracers. 

“We want to do this once, get it right -- do this the right way, not pause, [then] pull kids back,” Taylor said.

School district officials say each group of students, or cohorts, would return to in person classes every two weeks on a limited schedule.

Despite some numbers trending down, Taylor said another metric that the health committee looks at is hospitalization rates. As of Wednesday, nearly 300 people diagnosed with COVID-19 are hospitalized in the Chesterfield Health District according to the Virginia Department of Health.

“The county doesn’t live in an epidemiological bubble--we have not shut the borders, we are not insulated. So the question is, is the county ahead of the regional curve or behind it?” Taylor said.

Recent data presented from the Chesterfield Health District shows that more than 700 school age children in the region have tested positive for COVID-19. The Chesterfield Health District includes Chesterfield and Powhatan counties, and the city of Colonial Heights. 

Taylor added that 15 school employees have also tested positive for COVID-19. While the numbers are still fluctuating so much, the health committee is still recommending a virtual start to school on September 8.

The Chesterfield County School Board has tasked themselves to meet every two weeks to hear data from the health committee. And after each presentation, they said they’ll make the decision as to when in-person classes would start.

The next school board meeting is set for September 14.

 

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