Some families expecting their children to transition to in-person learning soon may have to wait a few weeks.
Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools announced Tuesday all students would learn remotely the weeks following holiday breaks because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This week, the health department’s Eastern Region, which includes WJCC, moved to the highest risk level for transmission,” according to the WJCC Schools news release. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns there may be another significant spike in the number of COVID-19 cases following the holidays due to travel and exposure at gatherings.”
All students will have remote learning for the following dates: Nov. 30-Dec. 4 and Jan. 4-8. See the full Thanksgiving and Winter Break schedule for WJCC Schools below:
WJCC spokeswoman Eileen Cox said the district based their information on the increase in local numbers and the CDC holiday guide warning about the holiday spike
“So this just gives a few extra days between when people may have had holiday gatherings and are returning from travel,” she said. “It’s an unofficial quarantine period.”
The buildings will be closed to the public.
Teachers can continue to use the building for remote learning. For example, if a teacher needs to use technology, but Cox said the district is encouraging employees to work from home if they can.
Some staff members and school employees may not be able to work remotely such as child nutrition services employees making Grab and Go meals.
“And if they’re not able to do their job remotely or they are questioning whether they can do their job remotely, they need to consult their supervisors,” Cox added.
But there is another issue: The division’s Path 3 timeline.
Both 6th and 12th grade students were supposed to start a blended in-person learning schedule on Nov. 30 but this timeline to gradually return students back to the classroom is now paused.
“We want to see how the numbers of cases trend following the holidays and recently, the eastern region according to the health district, the Eastern region had a significant spike,” Cox said, adding on Sunday it was in the 200s and on Monday, it rose to 599. “So we just felt like it was time to take a minute, evaluate the data, make sure the timeline we have is in the best interest of student safety and that’s what we are doing right now.”
Middle and high school students will continue to learn remotely until WJCC finalizes its plan.
“There might be some students who are struggling that we might bring in,” Cox said. “But there is nothing that is finalized right now.”
It’s unclear when the district will announce its plans to transition middle and high school students to a mix of in-person and remote learning.
“We don’t know yet,” Cox said. “Its really going to depend on the data so we’re just going to watch the data.”
As of Wednesday, there are 17 cases among staff and one student case since July 1, according to the WJCC’s COVID-19 Dashboard.
In the past two weeks, there have been 8 cases at WJCC Schools: 5 staff members at Warhill High School, one staff member at Toano Middle School, one staff member at J. Blaine Blayton Elementary School and one student at Stonehouse Elementary School, the district’s first positive case among the student population.
So what about the York County School Division–––will all their students have to learn remotely between the holiday breaks, too?
“At this time, the school division has not made any decisions to adjust our current models,” said Katherine Goff, spokeswoman for YCSD.
YCSD is continuing to monitor health metrics and other conditions, such as staffing, and are scheduled to provide an update on the Return to School Plan to the School Board scheduled meeting Monday.
The latest numbers for the Peninsula Health District, including the Historic Triangle area are below, courtesy of the Virginia Department of Health’s COVID-19 Dashboard:
WYDaily reporter Annie Gallo contributed to this report.
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