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Several Hampton Roads Head Start schools go virtual due to rising COVID-19 cases

The Hampton Roads Community Action Program's Head Start schools delayed in-person learning.

NORFOLK, Va. — Several Head Start programs in Hampton Roads stopped in-person learning temporarily due to the high community transmission of COVID-19.

A total of 17 Head Start locations are empty right now. School officials hope the closure doesn’t last long.

“We just really want to be able to sleep well at night knowing that we did the best thing for children," said Shikee Franklin, the Early Head Start/Head Start director at the Hampton Roads Community Action Program.

For now, hundreds of Early Head Start and Head Start students have moved to a virtual learning environment.

“We have 615, about 615 families that this impacted across Hampton Roads," said Franklin. 

“We’ve been back open in-person since the spring of 2021, and so this is the first instance where we had to close all of our centers at once," said Franklin. 

Franklin said they are waiting about two weeks before bringing students and staff back into the buildings.

“We had an increase of our staff testing positive for COVID as well. Our students are unvaccinated. They’re not eligible quite yet to be vaccinated," said Franklin.

Charity Barksdale has a four-year-old who is part of the Head Start program.

“So you can imagine how worried I am as a parent when she goes to school and everything to that nature because she has nothing to protect her," said Barksdale.

Barksdale said going virtual was the right move.

“It's nice that there are other parents and there’s an organization that's looking after the well-being of my child," said Barksdale.

But some parents also rely on Head Start for daycare.

“We have other parents, obviously, who have expressed a hardship because they do have I work," said Franklin.

Franklin said they have resources in place to assist parents.

“So, we’ve been really adamant about trying to work with employers and providing whatever documentation is necessary. HRCAP as a community action agency we have resources to assist our families should they fall behind on rent or utilities as a result of COVID," said Franklin. 

The program hopes to get its Head Start students back into the classroom by January 18th.