Hopewell parents ready to voice their opinions after COVID-19 spike in school district

The Tri-Cities

HOPEWELL, Va. (WRIC) –The Hopewell School Board is holding a special meeting on Monday night as COVID-19 cases spike. The school district is reporting more than thirty cases in the first two weeks of its school year.

During the town hall, parents will be able to voice their opinions on how the district should move forward to keep students safe. After talking with several Hopewell parents, some want their kids to remain in the classroom and some are demanding more virtual options.

The opinions are differing as parents try to grapple with a recent surge in COVID-19 in the school district. Hopewell Public Schools just started its new balanced calendar on July 26.

In the first two weeks, 33 positive COVID cases were reported among students and staff. The district is keeping track of its numbers on a special dashboard.

The spike prompted the Hopewell School Board to hold a special town hall where topics like community transmission rates, school prevention methods and expanded learning options will be discussed.

Tawanda Harilal is a nurse and has two children who attend Hopewell Schools. The L.P.N. tells 8News she wants to see expanded virtual learning options for all students, including her own; however she says right now it’s not available.

“I’m upset because they’re telling me that the virtual is filled up,” Harilal said. “How is that?”

Harilal says as of now she plans to pull her children out of school and put them in virtual schools and will express her thoughts at the town hall on Monday night. She admits that she daughter did not perform well in virtual school, but says she would rather her be alive and that her daughter is scared to be in the building with cases rising.

“My kids are not going back, depending on what they say tonight,” Harilal said. “I’m open to anything, but it gotta sound right to me because the numbers are showing me one thing and one thing that don’t lie is numbers.”

Meanwhile, some parents like Kathy Amos want to see kids in the classroom.

“No I’m not pulling my kids out of school,” Amos told 8News. “I absolutely support the schools being open and I support everything they’re doing to keep kids safe.”

Amos is a mother of two Hopewell students and shared that that her son suffered severe mental health issues from the isolation and not being in a classroom environment. She also adds that virtual is not a guarantee to slow case count.

“If you’re going to pull your kid from in-person and put them in virtual– are you planning on sending them to daycare, are you taking them to football practice, are you doing travel baseball,” Amos questioned. “Because those are other areas where COVID-19 could be spread and it’s closer contact and no masks.”

Amos goes on to say that Hopewell schools are doing all they can to keep kids safe, however the virus isn’t going to go away overnight. She says health is a major concern, but so is mental health and keeping kids educationally on track.

“We are coming off of a five week summer where our kids went to camp, did sports, went on vacation, swam on the swim team, went to dance.” Amos explained. “So, yes there is going to be a surge at first until we can get a control on that and that’s going to start by parents keeping there sick kids at home.”

Despite the differing views, Amos and Harilal want unity at Monday’s meeting and hope the school board comes up with a fair and safe way to move forward.

Teachers, staff, and students are required to wear masks in the building. The town hall begins at 6:30 p.m. and public comment will be heard. There is also a virtual zoom option for those who can’t make the in-person meeting.

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