CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Chesterfield County Public Schools announced on Wednesday morning that the district will switch from their current hybrid-learning to fully virtual, effective Monday, November 30.
The district’s announcement was in response to COVID-19 cases climbing throughout the county.
CCPS sent an email out around 11:30 a.m. informing parents, faculty and staff that classes would be moving online until at least the end of January.
Previously district officials said if the county’s 7-day average of new cases reached twenty-five, they would consider a division-wide closure. The county’s average jumped to 26.5 Wednesday morning, prompting the superintendent and school board to make the switch to fully virtual.
However, the change is getting mixed reviews from parents and teachers. Phil Hager, a parent with two children in CCPS, says his initial reaction was anger and the dozens of emails from the district over recent weeks have been “as clear as mud.”
“I feel 100 percent safe for my children to be back in the building full time, 5 days a week,” Hager said. “No face coverings and no social distancing. I’m comfortable with that.”
Hager added that the constant screen time for children is hurting them developmentally and creating social isolation.
“Virtual learning is not working,” Hager told 8News. “They’re not learning. My son, who is a middle schooler, was ecstatic to go back to school and he will be very disappointed. By not having them in school, you’re taking that socialization skill away even more, which is harming the next generation.”
The Virginia Department of Health is reporting that Chesterfield’s 7-day average has doubled over the past month.
On the other hand, others are expressing relief. Emma Clark, a teacher in the county, says the change was needed.
“I think it’s long overdue,” said Clark “I felt unsafe because we were disregarding what the experts are saying and partly I felt unsafe because of the suppression of the truth of what our buildings are like right now.”
Although Clark and Hager have differing opinions, they agree that Chesterfield County Public Schools mishandled their response to COVID-19.
“Chesterfield County schools, the administration, and the school board failed us miserably,” Hager told 8News.
Hager added that the choice of what to do as a parent was stripped away. He said he respects those who are immune compromised, teachers who are fearful and those who want to wear masks, but if they have a right to express what they want, so should he.
Clark teaches English to middle school students and says the district was never fully prepared and has “swept things under the rug.”
“I really feel for our families because I think they’ve suffered from dishonesty from the district from the beginning,” she said. “The reality is that we are going back to virtual because the district realized hybrid was a huge mistake.”
Clark said that staffing shortages are critical because so many teachers have quit, instructors were not properly trained, and too much is being put on teachers to balance online and in-person classes.
She also claimed that CCPS used the money allocated from the CARES ACT to buy plexi-glass dividers, signage and special markings for hallways, and other things for in-person learning, when officials should have used the money for virtual preparations like hotspots and Chromebooks.
CCPS stated in the coming days, families should expect to hear more about the return to virtual learning from their school, including what to expect when school resumes after Thanksgiving.
There is an exception to the virtual change, Cohort 1 students, which includes those with special needs, are able to continue in-person learning as an option. However, all other students will be logging in from home starting Monday.