Chesapeake’s plan to return students to the classroom


CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Chesapeake schools has a plan to return fourth through 12th-graders to the classroom gradually over a month.

Pre-K to third-graders are already in school five days a week in Chesapeake.

The plan to return fourth through 12th-graders was revealed during Monday night’s school board meeting. Students would go back using a blended model that would have them on campus two days a week and three days at home. The dates to return are as follows:

  • October 12- Grades 4, 5 & 6
  • October 26 – Grade 7
  • November 9 – Grade 9
  • November 12- Grade 8
  • November 16- Grades 10-12

Comments on school board member Harry Murphy’s social media page show this is not sitting well with some. There are questions as to how the schedule will work for high schoolers, why all kids can’t go back full-time like pre-K through third grade, and more.

Chesapeake Health Director Dr. Nancy Welch told 10 On Your Side there are “lots of things that come into play in their phases of bringing people back.”

Welch sits on the School Health Advisory Board.

“I’ve been in public health for 44 years and I’ve never seen a disease that is as tricky as COVID.”

She studies metrics every day, paying special attention to COVID trends over time.

“I’m very pleased with where Chesapeake is going now,” she said.

The numbers, however, don’t dictate the decision — they’re a guide. Ultimately, Welch said it’s a judgment call based on risk.

“How many of us have known someone who’s had a bad accident or been injured or died? I have, I know someone, but I still drive because I know my risks are low.”

One big factor they consider is mitigation: that is, the steps schools can take to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Welch has walked through every school

“They’ve done a really commendable Herculean job in getting the 6 feet in every way they can.”

In some schools, 6 feet just isn’t possible — but she says it’s OK. They will spread out 3 feet and wear masks.

“If our trends continue down, if we look at these numbers and there are lots of greens, those phases will happen at the dates they’ve mentioned,” Welch said. If there is a surge in COVID-19 cases, they will reevaluate.

Once kids are back in classrooms, there are bound to be some that test positive.

“I think its vitally important that there be that communication. We don’t want to hide anything,” Welch told WAVY.

She’s even hired a full-time epidemiologist to work solely with schools and daycares on case investigations, contact tracing, and those mitigation strategies.

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