VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — As the omicron variant continues to spread, the Virginia Beach School Board discussed updates to its ongoing COVID-19 protocols for the district at its Jan. 11 meeting.
The formal meeting started at 6 p.m. and came three weeks after the board declined a motion that would’ve made face masks optional. Three board members voted in favor, while eight opposed the measure. Gov. Ralph Northam’s order still currently requires all students to wear a mask while in school, but Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has said he plans to suspend that order after he takes office on Saturday, Jan. 15.
District leaders gave a presentation on the latest COVID-19 data in schools at Tuesday’s meeting. Board leaders did not take any official action.
Right now the biggest hurdle is finding teachers to staff classrooms due to the mass number of absences and teachers on quarantine following winter break. School leaders have come up with a three-level approach to keep children in class despite record vacancies.
Level 1: The school will move instructional support staff such as library media specialists, math coaches, literary coaches and teaching assistants to cover classrooms with absent teachers.
Level 2: 50 central support staff from all divisions will be assigned on a rotating basis to targeted schools to meet vacancies.
Level 3: 100 central support staff from all divisions will be assigned on a rotating basis to targeted schools to meet vacancies. This would be an all-hands-on-deck approach.
If COVID cases continue to skyrocket and vacancies can’t be managed, then schools will close on an individual basis for at least three days. The district will work with VDH to determine if a school should close and for how long.
The Virginia Department of Health reported more than 3,600 new cases and 145 hospitalizations over the weekend in Virginia Beach (Saturday/Sunday/Monday), and the VBCPS online COVID dashboard reports d 777 total confirmed cases from January 1-10.
School leaders also gave an update on the district’s quarantine policy. Before the statewide surge in COVID cases, the school epidemiologist said fewer than 1% of those exposed to COVID go on to test positive. Since omicron, the district is seeing fewer than 2% of those exposed to COVID go on to test positive and is continuing with the suspension of quarantine at the high school level as long as students are asymptomatic, are vaccinated or have had COVID in the last 90 days.
Vaccines continue to be the best defense against serious COVID illness or death. VBCPS and the Virginia Beach Health Department partnered to host two vaccine clinics this week.
On Tuesday, there is a vaccine clinic in Virginia Beach for kids 5-17 at Strawbridge Elementary from 5:30-7:30. There is another clinic Thursday at Woodstock Elementary from 5:30-7:30. Parents must be there for the shot.
The Virginia Beach Department of Public Health is also hosting free COVID-19 testing events 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 12 through Friday, Jan. 14 at 4452 Corporation Lane, however no more appointments were available as of Tuesday morning. Testing is by appointment only and will be conducted outside in the parking lot. If there is an inclement weather cancellation, anyone with a confirmed appointment will be notified by email.
PCR testing will be free for all ages. Rapid testing will not be available at this event.
Masks are required, and children 17 and under must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Virginians who have not been fully vaccinated, or are eligible for booster doses, can visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or call 1-877-VAX-IN-VA (877) 829-4682 to find nearby vaccination clinics.
Those seeking to find or schedule a testing appointment can visit vase.vdh.virginia.gov/testingappointment.