Virginia Beach schools superintendent speaks on delayed campus reopening date, employee vaccinations


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – The superintendent of Virginia Beach City Public Schools said he’s hopeful students will be able to return to in-person learning next month despite having to delay the initial date he proposed.

The VBCPS school board voted in the early morning hours Wednesday to hold off on reopening campuses for students due to the surge of coronavirus cases.

A tentative return date is set for Feb. 1, but only if two conditions are met.

Students can go back to class as long as there’s a seven-day downward trend in the community’s percent positivity rates and if proper contact tracing is in place.

Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence said the tentative date is achievable, but the district needs the public’s help to get there.

Spence said he understands families’ frustrations with the delay.

“I think it’s a really natural question to wonder why students can go back to school in Chesapeake and not in Virginia Beach or any of the other seven cities,” he said. “I think circumstances drive these decisions.”

One of those circumstances is adequate contact tracing. Spence said he recommended a delay after consulting with the district’s health services staff and the health department.

“They’re stretched very thin. They have a lot on their plate and I think we have to respect when they say to us ‘We’re concerned about our ability to do this if you open up.’ We have to listen to that,” Spence said.

School officials are trying to find solutions.

We’re told the district’s athletic trainers are being trained to help with contract tracing.

Meanwhile, the school district is preparing for its first delivery of COVID-19 vaccinations. We’re told employees are being surveyed and distributions could start on Jan. 25.

“It’s my understanding in the first week that there would be three days where we would have 500 doses available per day,” Spence said.

The superintendent said the district is doing everything it can to bring students back to campus, but they can’t do it alone.

“The way we’re going to see the percent positivity come down in our community is for people to adhere to the advice of our health professionals — to wear a mask, to practice physical distancing, to avoid small gatherings and social gatherings.”

If those metrics drop by Feb. 1, pre-K through 6th grade and some special education students would be phased in first. Secondary students would come back on Feb. 22.

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