Some Albemarle County students return to classroom as COVID-19 numbers continue to rise

Updated: Jan. 11, 2021 at 10:17 PM EST
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ALBEMARLE Co., Va. (WVIR) - Monday marked the first day some elementary school students in Albemarle County were in a classroom in nearly a month. But, rising COVID cases have some teachers concerned about what comes next.

Two teachers who spoke with NBC29 wanted to stay anonymous, but their message was shown clearly: they are concerned about the safety of their colleagues and students.

“All four of my teammates and I spoke last night and the two that had to go back today, I mean, they were feeling just sick about it,” said an ACPS first grade teacher.

“I would still be very anxious if I were in person,” said a third grade teacher.

The message from the school’s spokesperson, Phil Giramita, has not changed: “The health and safety of students and staff are always going to be the top priority.”

The school district has said that if the case incidence rate goes over 200 (measured by the average number of new cases over 14 days), and the percent positivity is over 8% for seven straight days, it would revert to Stage 1.

Those numbers now? 560 and 8.6%.

But, the percent positivity hasn’t exceeded 8% for a week straight.

“We’re going to be watching that number very carefully the rest of the week and if that continues to be above 8% then we won’t hesitate to make that change,” Giaramita said.

The anonymous first grade teacher said: “I think the fact that we’re hanging on by a thread to not returning to Phase 1 makes it seem to me to make no sense why we’re in Phase 3.”

The schools have mask and distancing policies and have not had any outbreaks. They also follow guidance from the Blue Ridge Health District.

“They have been pretty consistent in telling us that, again, schools are a safe place for students to be,” Giaramita said.

But that doesn’t alleviate all concerns for teachers.

“It’s easy to say these are the safety measures we’re taking and to not be an educator and think that sounds great,” said the third grade teacher. “The reality in the classroom is you are constantly reminding students to put their masks back on.”

There’s a school board meeting on Thursday, and both teachers said they hope to move back to either Stage 1 or 2. They also agreed that staying in Stage 3 is the most they’d support. They are opposed to moving forward to Stage 4.

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