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Valley schools addressing rise in COVID cases

With the number of COVID cases rising across the state and the Shenandoah Valley local school...
With the number of COVID cases rising across the state and the Shenandoah Valley local school divisions continue to monitor community transmission rates and are taking steps to maintain and improve their mitigation strategies.(WHSV)
Published: Jan. 10, 2022 at 9:39 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - With the number of COVID cases rising across the state and the Shenandoah Valley, local school divisions continue to monitor community transmission rates and are taking steps to maintain and improve their mitigation strategies.

Officials with Harrisonburg City Public Schools say they are seeing an increase in positive cases among students and staff, and they are looking to address the issue by launching a COVID screening program.

The voluntary screening program will kick-off at the end of the week. The program is open to students and staff and will be held in schools during the day and according to HCPS, there have already been 300 signups.

Rockingham County Public Schools had 106 active COVID cases among students and staff as of Friday, according to their COVID-19 dashboard.

RCPS Superintendent Dr. Oskar Scheikl said, while the level of spread in the community is high, the school division is prepared.

“We have significant spread and the modeling from UVA suggests that we’re not even close to the peak yet so this is going to go up and it’s going up rapidly, but we worry about as a school division is whether we see a spread in the building,” said Scheikl.

Dr. Scheikl said the division’s mitigation strategies have been effective and are still being improved.

“We focus on three-foot distancing, correct and consistent mask wearing, and all the other mitigation strategies like improved ventilation, we’ve improved our ventilation again by distributing HEPA air purifiers to all the classrooms to even meet standards for hospital patient rooms,” he said.

Dr. Scheikl said even if cases continue to rise, there are no plans to move to hybrid or virtual learning because there is evidence that most transmission takes place outside of schools.

“If we close schools and now as a result students are in childcare settings that are congregate and mitigation isn’t as good as it is in the schools then it could actually create more cases in the community than it does when we have kids in schools,” he said.

Elsewhere in the Shenandoah Valley, Page County Public Schools continue to deal with a high rate of community transmission. As of Monday, there were 33 active cases throughout the smaller school division.

PCPS Superintendent Dr. Antonia Fox tells WHSV that as a precaution against the continued spread of COVID in the county, the division will maintain its 10-day quarantine period despite the CDC’s changed guidance.

Fox said the division is also providing take home COVID testing kits to students and is looking into VDH’s new ‘Test to Stay’ program. Fox added the division is willing to temporarily move individual classrooms and schools to remote learning in the event of an outbreak.

Shenandoah County Public Schools had 43 active COVID cases as of Monday, a higher percentage of the division’s student and staff than both Page and Rockingham County schools.

Officials at SCPS say they are also willing to temporarily move some classes or schools to online learning to address staffing issues and outbreaks.

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