Bath County Public Schools to switch from hybrid to virtual learning starting Nov. 30 following first faculty coronavirus case

(Photo: Courtesy Bath County Public Schools)

(Photo: Courtesy Bath County Public Schools)

BATH COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — As the number of coronavirus cases slowly but steadily climbs in Bath County, school officials decided to revert to virtual learning starting at the end of November with hopes of resuming hybrid learning by mid-January.

According to Bath County Public Schools, the county is now in the high-risk category with regard to percent positivity and burden.

While Bath County has not seen any virus spread at schools due to the established mitigation strategies, school officials learned of the district’s first positive faculty case on Monday, Nov. 16. Not only did this positive case result in five members of the faculty and staff being quarantined, but it reportedly limited the pool of substitutes.

In light of these virus-related developments, Bath County Public Schools is set to transition to entirely virtual teaching and learning starting Nov. 30.

Bath County school officials say they are aiming to return to their current hybrid learning model — which allows 85 percent of students to be in the classroom four days a week — by the week of Jan. 18, 2021, However, remote learning may reportedly be extended beyond that depending on the status of the virus in the community, as well as potential new Executive Orders from Gov. Ralph Northam.

According to the school division, the upcoming holiday breaks will be observed as scheduled, but there will be no athletic conditioning or winter basketball during this virtual period.

You can read the full statement released by Bath County Public Schools on Tuesday, Nov. 17, below:

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Parents:

For over a month, BCPS has been carefully monitoring the COVID-19 conditions in the Commonwealth and locally. We are now entering a season of colder weather and the movement of most activities indoors, and the number of case transmissions is steadily increasing across the state. The governor has asked citizens to consider restricting gathering activities during the upcoming holidayy season, and in response to the most common areas of COVID-19 spread, he has issued an executive order which primarily addresses restaurants, bars, and retail establishments. The EO increases the mandate for children age five and older to wear masks throughout the school day, as developmentally appropriate, or for students with disabilities or medical conditions.

With regard to burden and percent positivity, Bath is currently in the high-risk category. Bath County’s number of reported cases is slowly but steadily increasing. Today’s total is 42. Due to the mitigation strategies in place within the division, we have been fortunate not to have school spread. However, as of yesterday, the division has its first confirmed positive faculty case. Five faculty/staff members are currently quarantined, impacting a limited substitute pool.

In consultation with the local health department, school board members, and administrative staff, Bath County Schools will go to full virtual teaching and learning beginning November 30. A target to return to our current hybrid model is the week of January 18. Depending on community circumstances and/or future Executive Orders, 100% virtual teaching and learning may be extended. During this period Fall Break/Thanksgiving Holiday and the Winter Break/Christmas and New Year Holidays will be observed as scheduled. During the virtual period, there will be no athletic conditioning and no winter basketball.

Since March, we have lived with a situation that we never expected. Faculty and staff have gone above and beyond to implement a hybrid model to allow 85% of our students to attend school four days a week, and parents have supported our efforts to provide a safe environment for our students to attend school four days a week, and parents have supported our efforts to provide a safe environment for our students. Thank you for your understanding that this shift in instruction modality is in an abundance of caution, and we look forward to the return of an on-campus schedule.

Sue Hirsh, Bath County Public Schools Division Superintendent

This news follows similar announcements over the past two weeks about decreasing in-person learning or reverting entirely to virtual learning at Franklin County Public Schools, Henry County Public Schools, Covington City Public Schools, Alleghany County Public Schools, and Pulaski County Public Schools.

Bath County — which did not report its first coronavirus case until early July — has seen a total of 42 cases and one virus-related hospitalization as of Tuesday. However, of those 42 total cases reported over the course of more than four months, the Virginia Department of Health reported 12 within the past week.

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