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Two weeks into academic year, Hampton Roads schools are navigating student, teacher quarantines

Parents have a lot of questions about student and teacher quarantines, and student safety is top of mind.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — School is in full swing across Hampton Roads and so are COVID-19 safety mitigations. That includes protocols for how to tackle student and teacher quarantines.

Parents have a lot of questions about this process and student safety is top of mind.

“Right up until the last few days before the start of school, I was still considering pulling them out,” said Chesapeake parent Kathryn Kain. “Once masks became mandatory that was really the tipping point for us.”

With three kids in Chesapeake schools, Kain is paying attention to the division’s posted COVID dashboard.

“It’s better than nothing,” Kain said. “It does at least give us raw numbers; it gives us new daily cases and it gives us current 14-day quarantine cases.”

During the week of September 6 -12, the Chesapeake School Division’s dashboard listed 592 students and 30 teachers in quarantine.

“We are close to 40,000 students, so that is a little over one percent of the student population on quarantine right now,” said Superintendent Dr. Jared Cotton.

Cotton stressed quarantine doesn’t mean everyone has COVID.

“The whole reason that you are on quarantine is so we can protect you,” he said.

Chesapeake Chief Academic Officer Dr. Latoya Walker Harrison said students in quarantine will learn through live or recorded classroom video access.

“Our secondary students already have devices that go back and forth with them each day,” Harrison said. “And our elementary students who don’t already have devices, we will provide that.”

Newport News school officials told 13News Now that from September 7-10, 449 students were in quarantine, as were 19 teachers. Hampton school officials said they have 47 students and/or teachers and 43 student-athletes in quarantine.

Virginia Beach City Public Schools is still gathering quarantine numbers. Chief Schools Officer Dr. Gene Soltner said a single student out would learn at home asynchronously.

“The student will access their assignments via their learning management system or electronically,” Soltner said. “Tutors are available at the secondary level. Students will also be in communication with their teachers.”

On Wednesday VBCPS sent a letter to parents detailing temporary closing plans, if they are ever needed in the future.

Online, all Chesapeake schools are listed as having a "low" COVID impact. Kain wants to know when a school would hit "medium" or "high" impact.

“There is no way for us to know when to prepare our kids when it looks like we are going to cross from medium to high, for example,” Kain said.

Cotton said they consider several factors like cases, outbreaks, and teacher supervision. So, it’s hard to set numbers.

“This is complex, this is something we never dealt with before,” Kain said. “For us to set arbitrary numbers really doesn’t apply in this situation every school has a different.”

Both Chesapeake and Virginia Beach school divisions said they are trying to add as much protection as possible to keep schools open.

“It’s about keeping everyone in our building safe,” Soltner said.

“We are doing everything we and to make sure students have what they need to continue learning during quarantine,” Cotton said.  

Several school divisions are still working to get us their quarantine numbers. The superintendent of Suffolk’s schools declined to provide numbers.

Chesapeake officials said parents can sign up for COVID dashboard emails to get updated numbers directly to their inboxes.