Parents react to Colonial Heights virtual learning switch after a rise in COVID-19 cases

Coronavirus

COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. (WRIC)– Colonial Heights Public Schools has gone back to virtual instruction following a rise in COVID-19 cases and staffing shortages.

Today was the first of three future days that students and staff in the district reverted to virtual instruction. The CHPS announced that students will operate on a virtual model for the rest of the week.

William Sroufe, the Superintendent for Colonial Heights Public Schools, told 8news he noticed something needed to be done after COVID-19 cases in the district rose when students returned from winter break. The school system held a ‘practice day’ before winter break to prepare for a potential virtual switch.

Randall Davis has two children in the school system, one attends Colonial Heights Middle School and the other attends Colonial Heights High School.

“Virtual school is not effective at all. It’s putting negative attitudes in the kid’s minds because they don’t think they have to go anymore,” Davis said.

However, when asked if Davis was concerned about the number of COVID-19 cases within the district, Davis said he was.

According to Sroufe, there were many factors that led to the decision, including the rate of people testing positive within the community. Sroufe said there are 266.5 positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in Colonial Heights. At this time last year, the city had 66.5 positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people.

The middle and high school recorded the majority of the positive COVID-19 cases in the school system with nearly 60 combined.

Below are the positive COVID-19 cases by school:

  • North Elementary: 8 positive cases, 51 students absent, 4 staff absent
  • Lakeview Elementary: 21 positive cases, 87 students absent, 9 staff absent
  • Tussing Elementary: 18 positive cases, 105 students absent, 7 staff absent
  • Colonial Heights Middle School: 26 positive cases, 135 students absent, 10 staff absent
  • Colonial Heights High School: 33 positive cases, 174 students absent, 22 staff absent

In total, there are currently more than 100 COVID-19 cases within the district and over 500 people in quarantine.

“People were falling out. People were testing positive,” Sroufe said.

He said the switch to virtual learning was crucial as staff members dwindled, including teachers, school resource officers, cafeteria workers and bus drivers.

Dr. Cyndi Williams, the Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services, said she had to deploy substitutes to cover classes in all of the buildings.

“It was just one of those things where the number of people being able to operate in schools in terms of instruction was getting spread too thin,” Sroufe said. “There comes to a point where there’s not enough people to go around. We’re a small school district and sometimes there’s just not enough extra people to fill the gaps.”

The school system also ran out of COVID-19 tests over the weekend. According to Sroufe, he used a certificate for the school district to acquire 200 to be given out.

“I know it’s not easy for our parents and our teachers, and it’s not an ideal situation, but I think we’re doing what’s best by our students,” Sroufe said. “It was time to maybe utilize this three-day weekend and hopefully get some space between some people that are sick.”

The superintendent said parents shouldn’t send their children to school if they’re sick and to call the principal to check if it’s okay. He still believes the best learning option for children is to be in person.

Students will return to the buildings on Tuesday, Jan. 18.

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