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COVID-19 Resource Roundup: Richmond Metro Area Schools

school bus
A Hopewell school bus. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Richmond | Chesterfield | Henrico

This roundup will receive ongoing updates. It will not include updates of all COVID-19 cases or outbreaks in schools or districts, but will provide up-to-date links about policies relating to COVID-19 mitigation strategies, mask and vaccine requirements, virtual enrollment, and ways parents can stay up-to-date. 

We're also looking for your questions about school reopening and COVID-19 policies. Let us know what questions you have.

Richmond Public Schools

The district has a comprehensive COVID-19 mitigation strategy, which includes daily symptom screenings, social distancing, and new air filtration systems in every classroom, every common space and on every school bus.

There’s a statewide mask mandate, which RPS is in compliance with. RPS will require masks for both indoor and outdoor school activities with only three exceptions: preschooler naps, eating and drinking water, and playing select musical instruments. 

Mask exemptions for students with special needs and staff with medical issues will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Staff who refuse to wear masks face disciplinary action.

Staff will be required to get vaccinated, and show proof of vaccination by October 1. Religious or medical vaccine exemptions will be granted on a case-by-case basis, and if approved, these staff members will be required to take regular COVID-19 tests as part of a testing pilot program.

For RPS parents reconsidering sending their kids back to school in person this fall, virtual enrollment through the district is now closed. The district is urging parents who now want to switch to virtual to check out the state’s virtual partner program, Virtual Virginia. Parents who chose this option will have to un-enroll kids from RPS. 

RPS announced they can guarantee a Virtual Virginia spot for 6th-12th grade students on the waitlist as of 5 pm August 31st. Aa for preschool-5th grade, the district says they’ll know how many additional virtual spots are available based on the number of “no shows” at the Richmond Virtual Academy after the first week of school.

RPS has created a waitlist to register to switch from in-person to virtual if spots become available. Click here to add your student's name to the list. Please note that RPS does not anticipate a significant number of openings. Given the Delta variant, if you're interested in homeschooling your student this fall, please complete this form and email Valenta Wade at [email protected]. Note that you may return to your RPS school at any time.

The district plans to distribute Chromebooks to students before school starts, so that in the case of a quarantine teachers and students can learn remotely.

RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras also sends out daily newsletters with COVID-19 cases per school, and other updates. You can subscribe or read old newsletters here:

RPS has a system in place to alert parents about COVID-19 cases and outbreaks, as well as other school updates. Parents can sign up at:

RPS parents are encouraged to call their school directly with any questions. If they have any issues getting in touch or need a division staff member to assist them, they can call the RPS Family Support Line at 804-780-6195.

Chesterfield County Public Schools

The district is maintaining a COVID-19 Guidance webpage which includes links to the district’s Covid-19 Dashboard, which officials say will be updated with information from the previous day by 10 am, links to statistics from VDH and a link to the district’s most recent school board presentation. And there’s a link to the school district’s “Project Restart” guidelines which details previous COVID-19 information.

The Chesterfield County school district is following the state-mandated mask wearing guidelines from Gov. Ralph Northam’s Aug 12 emergency order. Officials are requiring masks for students, staff and volunteers in all school and district buildings. Staff can remove masks when alone in an office.

The mask requirements do not apply to students and staff when outdoors. Additional exemptions include: eating, sleeping, exercising, using exercise equipment, and musical instrument playing, so long as physical distancing is maintained.

The district is also allowing masking exemptions for certain medical and religious needs. For medical exemptions, the district is asking families to contact school nurses to help coordinate. The district promises “reasonable accommodation” for exemptions. 

CCPS is encouraging but not requiring vaccination for students and staff. 

During the pandemic last year, CCPS developed a Virtual Academy for K-8 graders, which they will continue doing so this year. It’s staffed by CCPS teachers and run out of mega-trailers that were formerly classrooms. Students will log into virtual classrooms daily and “visit” resources classes, such as music and physical education, in the same manner they did during the pandemic last year.

Officials say that families can still request to switch their children to the Virtual Academy or visa-versa, but acceptance is based on class size and availability.

For 9-12 grade students, the county will continue offering it’s CCPS Online school. This is a program that the district created over 17 years ago as a way to help students who weren’t able to attend regular classes or who wanted extra credits. It is also staffed by CCPS teachers but students are sent work via email and check in with teachers on a regular basis as opposed to logging into a virtual classroom. 

The district will continue updating their own COVID-19 Dashboard and will notify parents of any COVID-19 cases related to children’s classrooms via email or a phone call from the children’s school. Parents can also sign up for district emails.

Henrico County Public Schools

The district’s mitigation measuresinclude: daily symptom screenings, three-foot social distancing, frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces, plexiglass separators and well-maintained air systems. 

In accordance with Gov. Ralph Northam’s public health order, Henrico schools are requiring mask wearing in all indoor settings, except during naps for PreK-5 students. Masks are not required during outdoor activities like recess, P.E. or athletic events. Exceptions to the requirement will be made for students protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

HCPS does not require proof of vaccination from teachers and staff. The district is also not requiring testing of individuals. If someone is showing COVID-19 symptoms, they are asked to stay home.

Enrollment for virtual school closed in May, but the enrollment form remains active on the Henrico Virtual Academy website. However, district officials have indicated capacity is limited for virtual school in the fall, and there is currently a waitlist.

Student athletes will regularly screen for active COVID-19 symptoms and will be required to maintain three feet of social distancing in locker rooms, but will not be expected to wear masks during exercise or competitions. 

The HCPS website includes an up-to-date list of active COVID-19 cases and outbreaks in school and office buildings, dating back to February 2020. The district’s Back to School page is also regularly updated with information regarding Henrico schools’ reopening strategy.

Families with immediate concerns regarding COVID-19 in schools can call the Henrico County Coronavirus Information Line at 804-501-5655, or text at 804-376-9780.

Megan Pauly, Alan Rodriguez Espinoza and Ian Stewart contributed to this report.

VPM News is the staff byline for articles and podcasts written and produced by multiple reporters and editors.
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