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Some schools go virtual, others request more take-home tests amid rise in COVID cases

Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 6:48 PM EST
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COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. (WWBT) - The surge of COVID-19 cases reported across the country is impacting the state of classrooms in Central Virginia.

On Tuesday, Colonial Heights Public Schools announced they are moving to online learning for the rest of the week amid a surge of COVID-19 cases reported in their school district.

According to their COVID-19 dashboard, last updated on Tuesday at 4:37 p.m., there’s 109 current positive COVID-19 cases in the school district. The dashboard also reports 400 students and staff throughout the district are in quarantine.

“The numbers just added up,” said Colonial Heights Public Schools Superintendent Dr. William Sroufe. “It just got to a point where I didn’t think we could operate schools with fidelity.”

In the letter posted on the website for Colonial Heights Public Schools, Dr. Sroufe added Tuesday’s decision comes as Colonial Heights reports a significant increase in new coronavirus cases and a positivity rate that has peaked at 42.6 percent.

At this time, Dr. Sroufe said the district is taking this a day at a time ahead of this long weekend.

“The people that we have now that are positive going into the next couple of days, according to CDC guidelines, they can come out after five days and so we’ll be past that,” he said. “I hope everyone is healthy. Obviously if they’re not healthy, we’re asking them to continue to quarantine, but if they are then hopefully we can just get back to it.”

Alexa Pitsicalis has two children who go to school in Colonial Heights. On Tuesday afternoon, she received the automated message notifying her school would be online for the rest of the week.

“I was in complete shock,” she said.

Pitsicalis also wishes she was given more notification ahead of the change.

“I do feel like if its the safest thing, then go for it, but I think we should have a better plan than just sending the kids home with nothing,” she said.

In response to the notification of this week’s online learning switch, Dr. Sroufe said the district informed the community as soon as they could.

In Chesterfield County, COVID-19 cases continue to climb among students and staff.

According to the COVID-19 dashboard for Chesterfield County Public Schools, there’s been 466 positive cases communicated from the district over the last seven days, which includes 399 students and 67 staff members. A majority of those positive cases have been reported from elementary schools, which includes 261 cases.

Christine Melendez, president of the Chesterfield Education Association, said she understands in-person is important and the best way to learn, but wants to see more of a plan from the school district.

“That lets us know where the threshold is for us to say, ‘Okay this school has this many unstaffed classrooms and we need to switch to a virtual option just for a day or two,’” she said.

In a request for comment sent by NBC12, a spokesperson for Chesterfield County Public Schools sent us the following statement:

The health and well being of our staff and students is of utmost importance. We continue to follow the CDC and Virginia Department of Health in regard to COVID-19 guidance, mitigation measures and protocols, and we adapt guidance and protocols as we receive new information from these entities.

Additionally, we have followed and continue to follow state and federal mandates throughout the pandemic, including:

  • The state emergency public health order issued on Aug. 12, 2021 requiring all individuals aged two and older to wear masks when indoors at public and private K-12 schools
  • Senate Bill 1303, which remains in effect through Aug. 1, 2022, stating in-person instruction must be offered and any currently applicable mitigation strategies provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must be followed
  • Virginia Occupational Safety and Health COVID-19 workplace standards.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration workplace guidelines
  • A federal public health order requiring individuals to wear a mask when using public transportation, including school buses

Chesterfield County Public Schools has also requested 7,000 take-home test kits from VDH and has expressed interest in the ViSSTA program. However, the school district said additional staff would be needed to implement the ViSSTA program.

The school district also expressed interest in the “Test-to-Stay” program and is waiting for additional information from VDH.

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