VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Beach City Public Schools says it is on track to welcome students back to campus next week on Feb. 2.
It will be the first time city students are back in class since November, when coronavirus cases began surging in Hampton Roads.
School board members got an update from division officials Tuesday on operational plans, mitigation measures, vaccinations for employees, and more, and Virginia Beach confirmed again Thursday evening it was still going forward with Option 1 on Feb. 2.
Earlier this month, the board set two conditions in order to reopen: a seven-day decline in the eastern region’s percent positivity rates, and the ability to ensure all five of the main COVID-19 mitigation measures are in place.
Both of those conditions have been met.
The division initially delayed the return to campus due to concerns over contact tracing, but the health department said it’s now able to provide a dedicated epidemiologist and case investigators to assist in that area.
School officials said all mitigation supplies are in place for transportation and custodial staff.
COVID-19 safety assessment teams will be visiting campuses on a biweekly basis to monitor mitigation practices.
Meanwhile, some employees have already received their first dose of the vaccine.
Officials said the registration process is moving quicker than originally planned. They had expected about 1,500 VBCPS employees to be registered for the vaccine around this time, but more than 7,000 employees were already in the registration system as of Tuesday.
Health department officials cautioned that even though metrics have been trending down, the area is still in a coronavirus case surge.
Despite meeting the criteria they had previously set, some members still appeared to seek approval from the health department on whether it was safe to move forward.
“We serve public health in a consultative role. We are not in a decision-making role,” said Dr. Demetria Lindsay, Virginia Beach Health District director. “At this point, we are leaving it up to you. This is your decision. We’ve done our best to give you the factors for consideration.”
Board members said they’re trying to find a delicate balance for those who want to return and those who don’t yet feel safe coming back.
“This is very, very difficult for our board, very difficult for our staff and we are doing the best we can,” said board member Kim Melnyk.
If all goes as anticipated, pre-K through sixth-grade students and some special needs students will be the first to be phased in starting Feb. 2.
Students in seventh through 12th grade would come back three weeks later on Feb. 23.