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Central Virginia schools sticking with strict mitigation strategies

Published: Jan. 10, 2022 at 6:00 PM EST
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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - This is a touchy time for students, parents, and teachers. With schools back in session and omicron spreading, the trickle down effect of the coronavirus is impacting more than just the classroom.

Several school district say they are already seeing COVID-19 absences and staff shortages, even though it’s only the beginning of the spring semester.

“There’s no question that the game has changed in our region,” Albemarle County Public Schools Spokesperson Phil Giaramita said.

ACPS is already seeing the effects of the omicron variant: Fourteen bus drivers were absent Monday, Jan. 10, because of COVID-19, or close-contact exposures.

“There about five schools - four elementary schools and middle school - who were principally impacted by this, and it’s causing delays of up to an hour or even more of students being able to get to school,” Giaramita said.

Usually, the highs are at around 10 or 12. These 14 drivers are now quarantining for 10 days to help keep students safe.

“Now is not the time to relax those measures, when we’re in the midst of numbers that we haven’t seen ever since the pandemic first appeared here in March, February, March of 2020,” Giaramita said.

That 10 day quarantine ACPS has is twice that of the CDC recommendation. This increased caution is one of schools’ main mitigation strategies.

“We’re just not ready to loosen any of those restrictions at this time,” Giaramita said. “It just history tells us that isn’t the right thing to do.”

Others are making the same call. Louisa County Public Schools is sticking with 10 days, too.

“Our case counts are up in our community and knowing that probably would translate into our case counts going up within our school division, of those cases coming into our school division, you know, our mitigation strategies are of utmost importance,” Superintendent Doug Straley said.

Charlottesville City Schools has always had a 14-day isolation period.

“That change down to five days really has not been embraced locally,” Beth Baptist with CCS said. “And so we have not moved to that. We are staying at our quarantine 14 days.”

CCS is also encouraging double masking, and still offering PCR tests three days a week.

“Any case of COVID is one too many,” Baptist said. “But when we look at the number of cases that we’ve had, overall, in the school division, we really have had low numbers.”

Meanwhile, ACPS is still testing teachers, and increasing other strategies.

“We had sampled our schools and on a weekly basis on the impact of how many staff are out, because of COVID related reasons, we’re now we’ve moved that up to now monitoring data on a daily basis, not a weekly basis,” Giaramita said.

These schools say there is no plan to go virtual again. Giaramita said that is because of Governor Ralph Northam’s rule to have some form of in-person instruction in Virginia schools.

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