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Student vaccinations 'encouraged,' Chesapeake officials announce all public students back in classrooms for new school year

The district will continue to offer virtual lessons for students whose families do not want them to return in-person, but they'd have to stay online all year.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Big changes are on the horizon for students at Chesapeake Public Schools.

The school board approved full-time, in-person instruction for all grade levels when students return for the 2021-2022 school year.

“We knew from the beginning that we had to find a path to in person learning,” said Dr. Jared Cotton, the superintendent of CPS.

Cotton said there will be a lot of safety precautions in place at Chesapeake Public Schools, like masking, social distancing and enhanced cleaning.

He said faculty and staff are already vaccinated, and now that teens ages 16 and older are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, re-opening schools should be a lot safer.

“We were really one of the first, if not the first school districts in our region to start vaccinating our staff. That is a big deal," Cotton said. "And of course there are going to be opportunities for students to get vaccinated, if parents choose.” 

Cotton said students weren’t required to get the shot, but "we are certainly encouraging it.”

With COVID-19 cases on the rise, Cotton said getting children vaccinated could help the school avoid potential outbreaks.

“Just like with our teachers, it’s another layer of protection for everyone," Cotton explained. "And it will help us stay in school and it will also prevent us from having to quarantine large numbers of students or staff, if we do have situations that do occur in our schools” 

The superintendent said he knows there are different feelings among parents when it comes to vaccines, but a lot of parents agree in-person learning is best.

He explained although some students did better during virtual learning, a lot of students learn best inside classrooms. 

School leaders began in-person learning for elementary school students last September.

The superintendent said his team learned a lot of about best safety practices during that time, and those practices will be applied to the upcoming school year.  

He said virtual learning will still be an option for students who learn better at home or don’t feel comfortable returning.

According to a press released issued by the district, elementary and middle school students who want to learn virtually will be required to make a full-year commitment to Virtual Virginia.

High school students will register for courses through Chesapeake Virtual Academy or Virtual Virginia.

For families of middle or elementary school students who want to learn more about virtual learning, the district will host a Zoom meeting on April 26. To register, click here.