CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Multiple Chesapeake schools are going virtual starting Monday, Jan. 10.
Hugo Owens Middle School, Portlock Primary, Truitt Intermediate, Rena B. Wright Primary, Great Bridge Middle and Oscar Smith Middle in Chesapeake will be virtual next week. School administrators said the decision was based on staff capacity levels, the amount of COVID-19 cases and school absenteeism. They are in the “red” zone as far as COVID-19 cases.
School officials say they will update parents on Thursday, Jan. 13 regarding the week of Jan. 18-21, 2022.
According to the CPS COVID Case Dashboard, nine schools are also in “yellow,” which means they need to be prepared for a shift to virtual learning. Students should take their Chromebooks home with them each day.
10 On Your Side spoke with parents who support a brief return to virtual learning.
“I think that a temporary virtual for a lot of schools or maybe all schools might be a good idea in order to take the pressure off the medical community to stop the daisy chain of cases, just for a little while so we can kind of catch up and be able to move forward,” said parent Ginny Gnadt.
Parent Kathryn Kain said, “We need to defer to the experts, the Chesapeake Health Department, the Virginia Health Department, are both recommending two weeks.”
Cotton brought up the possibility of online learning in some schools during a school board meeting on Dec. 31. He said case numbers in schools have skyrocketed (18.4% positivity) and that he expects positive cases to be higher this January than last.
Principals were told they need to have devices ready in case schools shift to online learning. However, the division cannot go solely virtual district-wide because state law now requires in-person learning to be offered.
During that same meeting, Chesapeake School Board members reversed a previous decision to make masks optional for students in schools. Just weeks before, the board voted to make masks, testing and vaccines optional for students starting Jan. 3.
However, now only testing and vaccines are optional as of Jan. 3.
Updates on COVID-19’s impact to schools, information on testing sites will be discussed at the Monday, January 10 school board meeting. There will also be updates from the Chesapeake Health Department provided at the meeting.
The email from Cotton also said Chesapeake schools will be offering free COVID-19 testing for students and staff thanks to a ViSSTA grant.
Students will need to be with a parent or legal guardian to be tested. Starting Friday, registration for the testing clinics is also required. Dates and locations will be listed on the CPS website.
The division will also offer COVID-19 vaccines through a partnership with Rite Aid:
- Wednesday, January 12, 3-7 p.m. at Western Branch Primary
- Wednesday, January 19, 3-7 p.m. at Rena B. Wright Primary
- Wednesday, February 2, 3-7 p.m. at Western Branch Primary
- Wednesday, February 9, 3-7 p.m. at Rena B. Wright Primary
The Chesapeake Health Department is also hosting vaccine clinics in Chesapeake school buildings.
- Deep Creek Elementary: 1st dose-Jan. 11; 2nd dose-Feb. 1
- Portlock Primary: 1st dose-Jan. 13; 2nd dose-Feb. 3
- Southwestern Elementary: 1st dose-Jan. 28; 2nd dose-Feb. 18
- B.M. Williams Primary: 1st dose-Jan. 18; 2nd dose-Feb. 8
10 On Your Side reached out to other local school divisions about their virtual plans. Here’s what they told us:
Portsmouth school officials say they are prepared to return to a full virtual learning environment, if that direction comes from the state. They have operated some virtual learning environments this year when classes or grades have had to quarantine.
Hampton school officials say they’ve created contingency plans for virtual learning, but that’s in case there’s bad weather. However, those plans could be used if a school needs to close due to COVID-19.
In York County, Yorktown Elementary shifted four classes to virtual learning temporarily because of staff and student absentee rates. It’s impacting one class in kindergarten, first, second and third grades.
Williamsburg-James City County officials say their focus remains on staying open, while being vigilant. They regularly review their virtual teaching plans and can implement them, if needed.