Covid Update – Feb. 9, 2021

WHAT WE KNOW

  • Students in Cohort No. 1 have been engaged successfully in in-person learning since late September. Students in Cohort Nos.  2-3 returned to in-person learning successfully last week.
  • Our mitigation strategies were effective in limiting transmission of the virus within the school setting during the fall when all students were eligible for in-person learning opportunities.
  • Medical research and reports continue to assert that schools are not superspreaders and can reopen safely with proper mitigation strategies and infection control measures in place.
  • By March 5, current plans indicate that all interested PK-12 school-based staff members and bus drivers will have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

TONIGHT’S PROPOSAL TO THE SCHOOL BOARD
Middle and high schools

  • All middle and high school students (Cohort No. 4) would be eligible to return to in-person instruction five days a week starting Tuesday, March 9. All secondary students would be provided a face shield that they would be required to wear (in addition to a mask) in classrooms, in hallways and on buses where 6 feet of social distancing cannot be accomplished.
  • Families who are not comfortable returning their children to in-person learning opportunities may continue to remain in a virtual learning environment with their currently assigned teachers.
  • Families must notify their child’s school if they plan to make a change in their child’s learning accommodations (switching from virtual to in person, or in person to virtual) by 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 17. The decision to remain in the virtual learning environment would be binding, as staff members must have the ability to set up consistent classroom configurations.
  • Families must notify their child’s school if they plan to make a change in their child’s mode of transportation by 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 17.
  • The 2020-21 school calendar would be amended for all middle and high school students (including middle and high school students in Cohort No. 1). Monday, March 8 would be an asynchronous learning day to allow middle and high school staff members the opportunity to make final classroom preparations.

WANT TO LEARN MORE

Team Chesterfield families,

As we shared recently, Chesterfield County Public Schools has been very deliberate about its return to a five-day-a-week, in-person learning environment, focusing on the health and safety of our 60,000-plus students and nearly 7,500 staff members. This deliberate approach allowed medical and public health experts more time to better understand the virus and make research-based recommendations for safely reopening schools. This return-to-school guidance has been thoroughly vetted and implemented successfully in Chesterfield County and elsewhere during the past several months.

The Chesterfield County School Board tonight will consider a proposal that would allow middle and high school students to return to school for in-person learning five days a week starting Tuesday, March 9. We also will propose that Monday, March 8 be an asynchronous learning day for middle and high school students (Cohort No. 1 secondary students included), so that staff members can have one more day to finalize classroom preparations.

Families who do not feel comfortable returning their child to an in-person learning environment would be allowed to keep their child in a virtual setting with their currently assigned teachers. A final decision from families about the preferred learning environment would be due to their child’s school on Wednesday, Feb. 17. Schools would notify families about how this information would be collected. If a student selects a virtual learning environment, they must remain virtual to allow for a consistent classroom configuration for contact-tracing purposes.

Medical research continues to acknowledge that schools are not superspreaders as long as proper mitigation strategies and infection control measures are in place. We demonstrated that our mitigation strategies worked in the fall when students first returned to in-person learning, as cases of in-school transmission of the virus were rare. Our Cohort No. 1 students successfully returned to in-person instruction in September, and remained in school even when in-person learning was paused for Cohort Nos. 2-4 in late November. Nearly 13,000 elementary students in Cohort Nos. 2-3 successfully returned to the in-person learning environment last week.

If the School Board approves allowing middle and high school students to return to school on March 9, Chesterfield County Public Schools would continue to enforce the wearing of masks, appropriate use of staff personal protective equipment, frequent use of hand sanitizer, time for hand washing, etc. Schools would continue to work to provide 6 feet social distancing opportunities in classrooms. However, in classrooms where 6 feet could not be accomplished, we would require that students wear school division-provided face shields (in addition to a face mask) as an additional exercise in precaution. No students would be closer than 3 feet. Actual social distancing measurements for individual classrooms would not be known until a school knows how many students would return in person. (Students would be required to eat breakfast and lunch 6 feet apart from other students.)

These mitigation strategies, along with the successful delivery of the second round of the COVID-19 vaccination to all school-based staff members by March 5, have us prepared to welcome middle and high school students back to in-person learning. Moving forward, we would continue to monitor COVID-19 related decisions on a case-by-case, classroom-by-classroom, school-by-school basis. Decisions about closing classrooms and/or a school would be made based on community spread within and/or our ability to appropriately staff and operate a facility.

Our previous success with mitigation strategies, the steps we previously took to gather PPE and conduct necessary maintenance on our HVAC systems, and the time-tested studies of medical experts regarding the safe reopening of schools have us poised to welcome students back to school for in-person learning five days a week. We appreciate the community’s patience and understanding of the time necessary to reach this point. We are ready.Sincerely,
Dr. Merv Daugherty
Superintendent

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