Thousands of students on the Peninsula head back to school


WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WAVY) — Thousands of students on the Virginia Peninsula headed back to class on Monday, August 30.

Doors were opened at schools in York, Mathews, Gloucester, and Williamsburg/James City County.

At Jamestown High School in James City County, students were greeted by cheerleaders, orientation crews, and Principal Howard Townsend.

“Just from the smiles on their face when they’re putting on their masks when I see them, I think they’re happy to be back and we love having them back,” he said.

The school has 1,300 students enrolled, according to Townsend. He said they worked with community partners and those at the central school district office to make sure families felt sure about sending their kids back to school

Earlier this month, the district implemented mask-wearing indoors for all regardless of their vaccination status.

Townsend said school nurses and custodians went throughout the whole school marking spaces to make sure students would be able to social distance.

COVID-19 is just one of the many concerns parents now have headed back to school.

“There’s still concern about going back to school, getting back into that routine. But, I will tell you teachers teach and learners learn but we’ll fall into that pattern in a few days,” he said.

The district has an active COVID-19 case dashboard on its website and shows that 77% of teachers are fully vaccinated while about 26% of students ages 12-17 are vaccinated.

Senior Bella Gilbert is one of those students who decided to get her shot.

“This is my first day back in one and a half years. I’m really excited. Virtual learning was hard. It was hard to be away from everyone,” she said.

Gilbert said she’s looking forward to actually being able to spend her last year in school.

“I’m so excited. Yeah, I’m so excited,” she said.

Parents like Nicole Stanley are also excited to send their students back. She has three children within the district. Her family just moved into the Williamsburg-James City County district just last week.

It’s been a whirlwind of a week for them getting ready to head back but her family is looking forward to it.

“I feel fine,” she said. “She [her daughter] went back toward the end of last year. I have three kids in three different schools. Mentally, even just educational-wise, it’s best for my children anyway to learn in person. The whole mental and social aspect for them in person to get to be around their friends and everything is beneficial to us.”

The district recommends everyone who is eligible to get the vaccine should get one.

They are also asking for parents to monitor their children for symptoms and have provided a COVID Symptom Checker.

If students do come to school and display symptoms, they will be isolated in a supervised area until a parent can pick them up.

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