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Chesapeake Public Schools shifting to all-virtual learning after winter break

The all-virtual learning plan will be in place for two weeks after winter break ends.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Chesapeake Public Schools will be shifting all of its students to virtual learning after the holiday and new year's break.

Superintendent Dr. Jared Cotton made the recommendation to the school board at its meeting Monday night. The all-virtual learning plan will be in place for two weeks after winter break ends.

"The health department felt strongly that we should look at a two-week period after the holiday," Cotton said.

Cotton told the school board quarantines spiked after Thanksgiving break. Division data shows 591 students and 139 teachers counted for quarantine during the week of November 30 to December 6.

"The week right after Thanksgiving was high," Cotton said. "It's gone down after the second week. We are hopeful this week it will continue to go down."

Following discussion, the school board voted 6-3 in favor of Cotton's recommendation. The division will shift all in-person students to virtual learning from January 4 through 15 to prevent a second spike. 

As it currently stands, Option 1 students would return to in-person learning beginning on January 19, 2021.

"We are hopeful that our families will work with us and monitor our travel out of the area,” Cotton said. 

The superintendent also emphasized that quarantine numbers don't mean everyone tested positive for COVID. 

"If we think there is a chance that they might have been exposed, we err on the side of caution and we put those students and staff on quarantine,” Cotton said.

The school division also launched an enhanced COVID dashboard. It now includes a number of students and staff on quarantine, and also the number of students and staff who are on campus.

"People have the misunderstanding that we have a ton of kids in our schools," Cotton said. “In reality, we have high schools that can handle 2,200 kids and we have maybe 300 kids in that school. So, they are very small numbers."

Division officials also decided to hold off on discussing the return of winter sports until January 4. Last week, the division put athletic practices on pause until school officials made a new plan for keeping players safe.