Team Chesterfield families/staff,
Per direction from the School Board after the Public Health Committee completed its work with cohort return recommendations, our school division continues to work collaboratively with the Chesterfield Health Department and the Virginia Department of Health to monitor data and identify potential points at which a school or divisionwide closure may be needed.
Our schools are a reflection of our society, so unfortunately it is not a surprise that COVID-19 also is present in our schools. We have taken a number of steps and are spending millions to help mitigate risk associated with transmission of the virus in our buildings. Because our staff members (school-based and central) have been quick to react to positive cases, spread within our schools has been minimal (two reported instances of community transmission within schools out of 82 reported cases). Prior to middle and high school students returning to class this week, less than 1 percent of our 13,000 students and 5,000 employees back in schools and offices had been infected. Five middle/high school students/staff have reported positive COVID cases this week across the division.
At the same time, we are always watching the bigger picture as well. As the numbers of positive cases in Chesterfield County, Virginia and the United States continue to increase, we have also been working with the Chesterfield Health Department to develop plans to determine when a return to virtual learning might be necessary. The approach we have arrived at with this review is two-fold:
- Monitoring individual situations within schools: If case numbers in a particular school indicated a concern about community transmission within the building or if too many students or staff were quarantined, we would consider a grade level or schoolwide return to an all-virtual learning environment.
- Monitoring numbers across Chesterfield County: As noted on its website, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published a set of “Indicators for Dynamic School Decision-Making.” These indicators and thresholds help communities better understand the risk of introduction and transmission of COVID within schools.” We continue to review these metrics.
While the first situation with individual schools will be addressed on a case-by-case basis, a decision to revert to a full-time virtual learning environment divisionwide would be made in collaboration with the Chesterfield Health Department and is dependent on the Virginia Department of Health’s seven-day average of cases (click on Chesterfield County under the Locality tab to see local data) per 100,000 residents. Working with the Chesterfield Health Department, we have identified that a seven-day average of 25 new cases or more would trigger school closure divisionwide and a return to full-time virtual learning for all students. We would then ask the School Board to hold an emergency meeting to discuss timelines for a potential return to school, which likely would be after Winter Break or at the end of the first semester.
We are sharing this information now to allow families and staff for the possibility that we may need to return to a full-time virtual learning environment at some point before the end of the second nine weeks. Remembering 25 as a threshold, Chesterfield County was at 19.6 on Thursday. Just two weeks ago, this important indicator was 13.2 and on Oct. 12 it was 8.9.
We will continue to track data associated with our schools and community, and will keep you updated as frequently as possible.
Dr. Merv Daugherty
Superintendent, Chesterfield County Public Schools