Chesterfield superintendent discusses COVID cases, virtual academy waitlist

Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 6:39 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 9, 2021 at 7:08 PM EDT
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CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - Close to three weeks into the school year, Chesterfield County Public Schools has reported more than 400 COVID-19 cases on their online dashboard.

The Virginia Department of Health reports a COVID-19 outbreak at Meadowbrook High School, which means two or more cases are traced back to the same person. According to the school district’s COVID-19 dashboard, 11 cases have been reported at school since the first day of school on August 23.

Jenny Morand, a Chesterfield parent, says her daughter is currently in quarantine after she had close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.

Morand says her daughter was exposed on Sept. 1 and was notified of this close contact one week later. She believes the school district needs to do more to reduce the spread of the virus.

“There needs to be surveillance testing of the entire student and staff population,” she said.

Chesterfield County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty says school leaders are working closely with health officials to address COVID-19.

“We work with the health department every day. We speak with our colleagues there. They feel like we’re doing what we’re supposed to do if we have a case,” he said. “We deal with the mitigation standards. We work with our health department. If we have to quarantine students, we’ll quarantine them for the period of time - that’s important.”

Daugherty says they’re also staying transparent with their families about the COVID-19 cases reported by students and staff.

“If you’re a parent, we’re going to let you know there was a case in the school,” he said.

State law requires in-person learning options at all public school districts. Daugherty says 98 percent of their students are back in the classroom.

Chesterfield County Public Schools also has a Virtual Learning Academy with a waitlist of students.

Daugherty says they’re looking to shorten this list and enroll students soon.

“We will probably add, you know, 40, 50, 60 kids this Friday,” he said. “Next week, we’ll continue to add students.”

Daugherty also says the key is to find additional staff to teach virtually

“There is a teacher shortage, but we are even looking to other districts, other states,” he said. “We’ve talked to retired teachers. We’ve talked to people who want to come back in and teach, and they’re working extremely hard to look at the hiring factors for additional opportunities.”

He also adds the school district is doing all they can to hire during this shortage.

“I can’t create people. I can’t grow them,” Daugherty said. “We’re offering opportunities. We made a big effort last year to improve our pay scale, which we were able to do, so we’re continually working on that.”

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