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Chesapeake prepares to bring students back to classrooms, despite high positivity rate

Chesapeake School leaders say they are ready to welcome roughly 25,000 students and staff back on Tuesday.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Friday, the city of Chesapeake had the highest COVID-19 positivity rate in Hampton Roads, at 22.8 %. 

Regardless of the high positivity rate, Chesapeake City Public Schools students will go back to the classroom as planned for in-person learning next week.

Chesapeake School leaders say they are ready to welcome roughly 25,000 students and staff back on Tuesday. 

While some parents said their children are ready to go, others told 13News Now they believe it’s not safe for students to learn in-person.

RELATED: VDOE releases guidance for reopening Virginia K-12 schools

Jean Hawley has two daughters who attend Chesapeake city Public Schools.

“They are so excited and so ready to go back," she said.

She calls virtual learning a beautiful resource, but said she wants her children learning in person.

“I’m really a proponent of them being back in the building - of course under safe conditions, but definitely not afraid of my students, my children to be back in the classroom,” Hawley said.

Today, the Chesapeake COVID-19 positivity rate is 22.8%, which is the highest in Hampton Roads. 

That’s one reason a mother of three, Samantha Lester, said she doesn't think it's safe for in-person learning.

“Not only am I concerned about them sending children back to school, and the staff members right now," Lester started. "They continue to abandon the metrics they told us they would abide by when it came to the positivity rate and case incident rates this summer.” 

She said virtual learning was an alternative the school system should be focusing on.

"It’s not safe to have tens of thousands of people indoors unnecessarily like in-person learning would be," Lester said. "We have viable options.”

The mom of three went on to stay that she’s worried that in-person instruction could lead to more cases in the community.

“When most pediatric cases of COVID are asymptomatic, there is no way to be sure that transmission is not occurring in schools without COVID testing requirements,” she said.

Chesapeake City Public School officials said they believe the virus isn’t spreading between students. They said if parents don’t feel comfortable sending their children back to school just yet, they can stay virtual.

Chief Student Support Services Officer, Dr. Jacqueline Miller, said there hasn't been evidence of school spread so far.

“We’re not seeing the large spread in our schools," Miller explained. "It’s in our community yes, but in our schools, we feel like that’s the safest place for our kids to be and our kids need to be learning. Our quarantine methods, our CDC health and safety mitigation strategies, are all working.” 

RELATED: Chesapeake Public School employees get first round of COVID-19 vaccine

This week, the division started offering COVID-19 vaccines to staff. Miller said that's just another part of their mitigation efforts.

“We prioritized who would get vaccinated first and that is those teachers and staff members that are working closely with the students,” she said.

She said school leaders are ready to welcome students back next Tuesday.