Some Chesterfield parents concerned as students head back to school

Published: Aug. 20, 2021 at 4:54 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 20, 2021 at 7:07 PM EDT
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CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - Chesterfield Schools are bringing back students in a staggered approach on Monday as some parents are concerned about the return of in-person learning.

The typical excitement about back to school has been replaced with worry for some parents, especially after two children in the metro area recently died from COVID-19.

“If my child goes to school and ends up contracting it, to give it to the other sibling... there’s no telling what will happen,” said a Falling Creek Middle School parent.

It’s something on the minds of many families as kids prepare to head back to school.

“With the numbers going up, I really don’t know how I feel about that,” said parent LaShonda Jerry. “So many red flags like wait a minute, something isn’t right.”

Jerry, a Chesterfield parent of three, originally thought she signed her kids up for virtual learning but found out earlier this week they were enrolled in person instead.

“Staff personnel at Falling Creek told me particularly that if they don’t attend the first two days, at least by Tuesday, then they’ll be dropped from the roster,” she added. “So that puts stress on the whole entire situation.”

Her kids are now on the waitlist for virtual learning, but her two oldest did attend their in-person orientation Thursday night.

“I didn’t see any sanitation stations,” Jerry said. “The only thing I did see from just walking around was the water fountains were covered and pretty much out of order.”

Another Falling Creek parent reached out to NBC12 also alleging the lack of sanitation stations. He now wants to switch his daughter to virtual after walking through the school himself.

“They have four desks pushed up into each other and their motto is to have 3-foot distance,” he said. “They’re thinking those desks pushed together is enough, but a child being a child is going to take their mask off.”

A Chesterfield Schools spokesperson said the school system is following CDC guidelines which are different this year compared to last; last year the CDC recommended at least 6-feet of physical distancing. Additionally, Virginia law requires school systems to offer in-person learning five days per week.

However, even more challenging is 98% of students are returning to the classroom for the 2021-2022 school year, which means adjustments have to be made.

During an Aug. 10 presentation to the school board, social distancing will be efforted “when possible.”

“I just feel they’re not prepared,” a parent said.

Meanwhile, both parents understand education is important and they are trying to find ways to make sure their children get the lessons they need. Jerry added she is willing to give in-person a fair chance.

“If they come back the first day and say ‘hey mom, I didn’t like that, it didn’t feel right, there were people doing x, y and z,’ then I can make a just decision about how we go along with this,” she said.

A CCPS spokesman said any parent trying to switch their child to virtual learning will be placed on a waitlist, but there is no timeline provided for when a student may be able to switch.

“CCPS is committed to providing students with a safe, supportive and nurturing learning environment,” the CCPS website said.

Meanwhile, students will return to the classroom in a staggered approach.

First through fifth graders’ first day of school is Monday, Aug. 23. However, things are a bit different for kindergarteners.

“Some kindergarten students will attend Aug. 23-24; other kindergarten students will attend Aug. 25-26. (Schools will assign students to specific days.)” CCPS said. “This will allow students to become more familiar with their new surroundings in a smaller classroom setting.”

All kindergarten students will report to school every day starting Friday, Aug. 27.

As for secondary school students, sixth and ninth graders’ first day will be Monday, Aug. 23. All other middle and high school students will start school on Tuesday, Aug. 24.

A CCPS spokesman said this staggered approach was also done pre-pandemic.

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