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Chesapeake Public Schools has 'no plan' to take students virtual, despite city's high case rate

The test positivity rate is higher in Chesapeake than Virginia Beach. But the area’s public schools’ system says it has no plans to change instructional plan.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — As of Monday night, Chesapeake Public Schools had no plans to take students out of the classroom, according to a district spokesperson.

Virginia Beach City Public Schools announced Monday that all students would return to virtual learning after the COVID-19 health metrics for the Eastern Virginia Region put Virginia Beach into the red/red zone, as outlined in its Fall 2020 Plan.

The test positivity rate in Virginia Beach reached 10.7 percent as of Monday. The test positivity rate in Chesapeake is 11.5 percent.

Chesapeake Public Schools parent Samantha Lester has questions regarding the school system’s COVID-19 plan

On November 23, the school board voted to move forward with a back-to-school plan and keep students in the classroom, despite a rise in coronavirus cases in the region.

“Certainly, I am a little bit jealous, but I am also very concerned,” said Lester, who opted to keep her two school aged children home for virtual learning.

Chesapeake Public Schools has no plans to make a change to the instructional model in place in our schools at this time,” said spokesperson Richard Babb. “We are continuing to monitor the dashboards on the Virginia Department of Health to track the presence of COVID-19 in our area and we are working closely with the local health department to monitor any impact to our schools.”

The school system recently rolled out a new COVID-19 Dashboard that tracks coronavirus cases by individual schools. As of Monday, the dashboard showed there had been 86 positive tests reported in schools over the last 14 days.

“We are thankful for the numbers we have now but know there are possible cases we don’t have record of,” said Reagan Davis, President of the Chesapeake Education Association.

Davis and Lester both said they appreciated the school systems’ new dashboard, but that there is no district-wide requirement to be tested for the virus.

“We also do not know what will constitute a building closure, versus a whole school system closure, or even if one of those would happen,” said Davis.

Last week, Chesapeake Public Schools sent some students and teachers back home after discovering possibly linked coronavirus cases that came back positive. 

Students at Crestwood and Truitt Intermediate switched to online learning and were quarantined, according to Babb.

“We are in constant communication with the Chesapeake Health Department and we are happy to report there have been no additional transmissions related to these events,” he said.

At the last board meeting, leaders gave the superintendent the authority to decide if and when a school should switch to virtual learning.

However, “no thresholds have been established,” said Babb. “Each situation is evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine if the school can operate both safely and efficiently."

Both Crestwood and Truitt Intermediate Schools are listed as schools with outbreaks on the school system’s dashboard – though schools like Butts Road Intermediate, with more reported cases in 14 days, are not.  

The district said outbreaks are only counted when the source of the spread is determined to be in the school

“Tell us what criteria is, so we as a community can follow that criteria as well on the COVID dashboard and then prepare if we might be coming close to a shift,” said Lester. “That’s what Virginia Beach is afforded.”

Babb said the district will provide an update to the community at the next school board meeting - next Monday, December 14.

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