VIRGINIA BEACH (WAVY) — Public schools in Virginia’s largest city are heading back to all virtual learning on Tuesday, just under a week after sending thousands of students back to physical classrooms.
A Virginia Beach school board member confirmed with WFXR’s sister station that the district came to the decision after a special meeting on Monday. The transition will include students in Option 1 and 1 and last at least through the district’s Thanksgiving holiday.
The district says the decision was made after consulting with Virginia Department of Health and was “in the best interest of our students and staff.”
School buildings and administrative offices will only be available to students and families by appointment only starting Tuesday. Breakfast and lunch will still be provided via the drive by/pickup model, and the district says it’s working to help with childcare needs.
In an interview with WFXR’s sister station last week, Superintendent Aaron Spence said the district was considered moving back to all-virtual if coronavirus metrics hit certain thresholds.
One of the “red zone” indicators is cases by date. With cases are up 33% in the city compared to last week, the put VBCPS in that higher risk zone. The city reported 200 cases on Monday alone, but the Virginia Department of Health said that figure included some cases that should have been reported over the weekend.
As of Monday, another major indicator, Virginia Beach’s test positivity rate was 7.3%. That wasn’t enough to put in the red zone, but that rate has been steadily trending up and could reach 10% soon.
Virginia Beach’s case rate per capita also puts the district in the “red zone,” per CDC school reopening guidelines. Virginia Beach and Chesapeake are the only districts in Hampton Roads that are in the red zone for these metrics. Chesapeake also has a relatively high positivity rate at 8.6%, the highest in Hampton Roads. Chesapeake also recently reopened for more in-person students.
The district’s coronavirus case tracker lists 90 total cumulative cases since Sept. 8, but shows 7 additional cases since that total was updated last week.
However, Spence said he didn’t believe the schools were the source of the cases, and infected people were coming from outside.
“We are not a spreader,” Spence said. “We don’t have any connected cases in our buildings right now. That means folks may be bringing it into our building; they are not getting from each other in the building.”
Research has found that school reopening has little effect on coronavirus spread if safety precautions are in place. The clusters that are reported have been mostly connected to older students at the high school level, NPR reports.
“We will continue to monitor the health metrics for the Eastern Virginia Region and will communicate with staff and families when we believe it is safe to return to face-to-face instruction,” said district spokesperson Sondra Woodward in a release to parents.
This is a breaking article and will be updated. For more on back to school plans in Hampton Roads, click the link below.
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