Chesapeake schools to continue with some in-person learning, even as COVID-19 cases spike

Chesapeake

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Just as some school divisions are drawing back and returning some students to remote learning due to a rise in local coronavirus cases, Chesapeake Public Schools plans to stay the course.

All fourth and fifth-grade students who chose the in-person learning option are scheduled to begin the return to classrooms this week for five-day-a-week learning. The remaining grades are also scheduled to return to some form of in-person hybrid learning this week.

At a school board meeting Monday night, the superintendent said no changes are planned just yet.

On Friday, the City of Chesapeake saw 55 new cases, the highest one-day increase since students returned back to the classroom. Superintendent Dr. Jared Cotton said some benchmarks are currently in what the CDC would consider “high-risk” for transmission in schools.

“The numbers are concerning to me,” Cotton told the board. “Things could change.”

Roughly 20 speakers addressed the board ahead of Cotton’s comments. The majority advocated for more safety protocols.

Several teachers with the Chesapeake Education Association said they are exhausted, frustrated and even a little scared.

“We try to balance keeping our students safe, keeping ourselves safe and providing the rich high-quality education that our students deserve,” said Reagan Davis, teacher and president of the Chesapeake Education Association.

Davis is an eighth-grade math teacher at Great Bridge Middle School. He says school board members can certainly help lower anxiety levels by establishing a more comprehensive COVID-19 dashboard that breaks down case numbers school by school.

Right now, unlike Virginia Beach City Public Schools which breaks down the coronavirus case data by location, Chesapeake only gives data for the whole school division.

“Our employees, our students, our families deserve to know where cases are going on in the building whether it be student or employee,” Davis said.

Monday night, Davis made a separate request for safety: having a plan for if buildings need to close.

He said as a teacher, he doesn’t know exactly how he is expected to convert everything back to virtual learning.

Cotton said plans could change “suddenly” depending on the health data. He praised teachers and staff for the work they’ve done under tough conditions.

He told the board that the division is on track to provide raises for employees starting in the second semester.

Several board members echoed those praises and maintained they want to see how the current model shakes out.

“I want to thank the superintendent for not having a knee-jerk reaction to the COVID metrics like maybe some other school divisions have had,” school board member Michael Woods said.

The board Monday night did not discuss making any changes about how things are currently being done.

Separately, the board did approve another day off for all students and staff: the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

The superintendent also announced that the window to decide in-person or virtual for students for the second half of the year starts Tuesday.

CORRECTION: The on-air and earlier online version of this story incorrectly stated that the superintendent’s intentions to bring about a contingency plan. WAVY-TV regrets the error.


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