‘It’s very scary’: Chesterfield parents voice concerns about return to in-person learning

Published: Aug. 23, 2021 at 6:47 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 23, 2021 at 7:58 PM EDT
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CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - On Monday, thousands of students in Central Virginia returned to the classroom for their first day of school, including hundreds of students in Chesterfield County.

Students in first grade through fifth grade, sixth grade and ninth grade came back to the classroom for the start of the school year.

All students are required to wear a face mask while indoors. There will also be enhanced cleaning, increased frequency of cleaning and the district will quarantine positive cases of COVID-19 when they happen.

Superintendent Merv Daugherty said school leaders are excited about the upcoming school in a video sent to NBC12 by Chesterfield County Public Schools.

“Everyone in the county is working really hard to make sure your child has a great school year,” he said in the video statement.

The excitement is also met with anxiety and concerns from parents in the county over the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in the region. The CDC’s COVID transmission map shows a majority of cities in counties in Virginia are experiencing high transmission rates of the virus.

Chris and Catharine Barker have four children in three different Chesterfield County schools. They’re worried about the impacts this virus can have on their family.

“We have two at home that are too young to get vaccinated. They have hyperglycemia, which means they are more than likely to be hospitalized or to get sick or infected with COVID,” said Chris Barker. “There’s a chance they could bring that home.”

This concern echoes with other parents like Kimberly Alascio, who is trying to enroll her seventh-grade student in the district’s Virtual Learning Academy as COVID-19 cases continue to climb.

“We do have another child in our home with a compromised immune system and a heart problem,” she said. “I cannot take the risk of sending my seventh-grader into school and have her bring something.”

Alascio says her daughter is on a waitlist with limited options available.

“I have been told that there is no option for virtual right now. They have no teachers right now and we are on a waiting list,” Alascio said. “School starts tomorrow and we’ll be sitting here doing nothing.”

Concerning the waitlist for the Virtual Learning Academy, a spokesperson for Chesterfield County Public Schools said, ”VLA will continue to assess the status of enrollment, staffing and options as it moves forward for parents who have submitted this request and are active on the waitlist. Once a seat is open, VLA will contact both the school and parent.”

Alascio hopes accommodations can be made to help keep her family safe.

“Things have changed. The numbers are up. Children are dying from this, and it’s not a risk I’m willing to take,” she said. “I am scared to know how fast this new variant is spreading, and I hate to see it spread to our children.”

On Aug. 20, 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.

All other middle and high school students will return to school on Tuesday.

Chesterfield County Public Schools is also keeping track of reported COVID-19 cases in their school community through their online dashboard.

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