Chesapeake School Board votes to keep schools open amid uptick in COVID-19 cases


CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — The Chesapeake School Board has decided to keep schools open despite a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases.

The board met for an emergency meeting Monday afternoon to review recent COVID-19 data and discuss possible changes.

The board voted unanimously to keep the in-person learning plan as-is, with the option to move individual schools to remote learning if necessary.

The decision comes as COVID-19 cases are spiking in Chesapeake.

On Sunday, the Virginia Department of Health reported 111 new confirmed cases of coronavirus in Chesapeake. That’s the second highest single-day total for the city since the beginning of the pandemic.

The decision Monday included three recommendations from the superintendent. Those include:

  • Posting the new Chesapeake Public Schools COVID-19 Data Dashboard, which includes a school-level breakdown and is updated every business day.
  • Not changing the on-campus continuum.
  • Moving individual schools to temporary online learning, if needed, at the superintendent’s discretion.

“If we see a sudden increase in cases or outbreak at a particular school or location, we can address that at the school level versus the entire district,” Superintendent Dr. Jared Cotton said. 

Cotton has previously said data showed community spread was not happening in school buildings. Since September, the district’s online case count reports a total of 27 on-campus student cases.

Although Chesapeake’s latest COVID-19 metrics aren’t ideal, school board leaders praised Cotton’s plan for keeping students in the classroom.

“This is not an easy situation. I am completely in agreement with everything that you put out there,” said school board Vice Chair Colleen Leary.

“It’s going to take a lot of work to keep schools updated, but this is the right thing to do,” said board member Christie New Craig.

Parents and teachers told 10 On Your Side the new dashboard is a step in the right direction.

“I am very grateful that they are finally giving us COVID cases by school. I will caveat with it by saying they also need to give us the number of those quarantined by school as well,” said parent Samantha Lester.

The president of the Chesapeake Education Association agreed.

“We need to have that assurance that we are all kept safe,” said Reagan Davis.

However, they feel the decision to keep schools open is too risky due to the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

“In my opinion, it would’ve been a better move to close down for two weeks and provide virtual instruction for two weeks to allow for any potential exposure or positive COVID cases to run its course,” Davis. 

One week ago, the school board confirmed it planned to keep some students in the model-person learning model.

At the last school board meeting, several people asked board members for more safety protocols. Teachers with the Chesapeake Education Association said they would like to see case data by school– instead of for the entire division.

Since then, the state Department of Health has reported an increasing number of cases. Chesapeake had the second-largest increase in coronavirus cases Sunday, behind Virginia Beach.

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