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Parents of children with disabilities struggle to find child care in the Richmond area

When Bethany Sizemore’s baby, Carter, was 1 month old, he suffered a spontaneous subdural hematoma, a condition where a buildup of blood gathers on the surface of the brain. He was rushed to the pediatric intensive care unit at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond, where doctors labored to save him.

Carter survived, but the experience took its toll on his little body.

“He is such a blessing. But since then, he’s had no use of his left arm,” his mother, Sizemore, said. “He has global developmental delays. He’s speech delayed.”

When Sizemore, who lives in Hanover County, started looking for child care options, she couldn’t find any day cares that would take him.

“I would say, ‘He’s special needs.’ And their whole tone would change. They would say, ‘We don’t have the space,’” Sizemore said. “We never found one day care – whether it was in-home or a commercial day care – to support his needs.”

Parents of children with disabilities face many obstacles in accessing adequate child care and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made it worse.

Roughly 39% of parents of young children with disabilities had difficulty finding child care in 2019, compared to 29% of parents of children without disabilities, based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Nearly 1 in 5 parents of young children with disabilities reported leaving a job, not taking a job, or making significant changes to their job due to child care, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress.

In 2019, children living in poverty were more likely to have a disability – 6.5% – than children living above the poverty threshold at 3.8%.

The pandemic exacerbated these obstacles when day cares closed during the shutdown, spaces became limited and worries about exposure affected in-home care.

Children with disabilities make up roughly 15% of the population of children in the U.S.

Child care programs are not allowed to exclude children with disabilities under the Americans With Disabilities Act. But there are exceptions, such as if the child poses a direct threat to others, or if providing an accommodation would pose an undue hardship on the provider, or fundamentally alter the nature of the program – leaving many children with disabilities excluded.

Ame Branam of Midlothian has two children: Warren, 8, who has Down syndrome, and Natalie, 7, who has autism. Both children struggled in day care.

“It was really, really rough. At one day care, the kids were making fun of Natalie, calling her dumb. She would retaliate by spitting on them. This was a completely new behavior for her and she brought it home for a while,” Branam said. She also received calls from the day care about her son trying to escape, she said.

Autism can be detected in children by age 2 but many, especially girls, do not receive a final diagnosis until much older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This leaves parents in a lurch when their children are displaying challenging behaviors but no one knows why. It can take up to a year in some cases to get a diagnosis with long waiting lists for adequate providers.

After being kicked out of several day cares when Natalie was 3, Branam sought a diagnosis. It took three different tries with three different companies, but, finally, they received the diagnosis that Natalie had autism.

“It helped us tremendously in learning what was going on and why she was so stressed,” Branam said. But once they had that diagnosis, Branam was told by the preschool that if she wanted her daughter to continue to attend, Branam would need to hire a full-time caregiver to accompany her.

“Paying for day care on top of a full-time caregiver was not an option for us,” Branam said. In Virginia, the average annual cost to have a child Natalie’s age in day care is around $11,500, with monthly bills around $900 to $1,000.

Branam looked for more day cares. At the beginning of the pandemic, Natalie was just settling into her new day care while Warren was kicked out of his. Both ended up at home with their parents during the lockdown.

“I can’t blame anybody,” Branam said. “The whole child care system in this country [is problematic]. There’s high turnover; staff aren’t paid a living wage. There aren’t enough staff to give kids attention. The staff gets little to no training on working with neurodivergent children. I would love to point my finger at somebody, but I just can’t.”

Finding support for young children with disabilities is a challenge.

Janee Lambert and her mother, Dorothy Shears-Billups, have been looking for child care for Lambert’s daughter, Harmoni, 5, who has autism, for over a year.

“The options are limited,” Shears-Billups said. She works with ChildSavers, a local nonprofit that provides children’s mental health services and child care resources. “Early care is hard when you don’t have teachers familiar with the needs of the children. They struggle handling the behaviors. It’s more a lack of training. There needs to be more focused training to deal with children with special needs.”

Lambert and her mother found a center-based program for Harmoni, but are taking a wait-and-see approach, knowing that they might need to pivot if Harmoni’s behaviors can’t be supported.

There are options for parents of children with disabilities, although navigating the system can be cumbersome and difficult. Some parents work through their insurance to find early intervention services and applied behavior analysis, or ABA, therapy through companies such as Building Blocks, which is locally owned.

These services provide early intervention and the kind of skill building that children with disabilities need to succeed – such as working on social skills, communication and strategies for managing difficult behaviors.

The Leaf Spring School offers nursery school, preschool and pre-K that welcomes children with special needs.

The Faison Center of Richmond, which is a private school and center for children with autism, has an early education program for ages 15 months to 5 years old, but it is not a child care program.

“The early education center is specifically for children from the moment they get diagnosed until they enter school age,” Adam Warman, vice president for the center, said. It offers early intervention services for children with autism, such as ABA therapy, inclusive and play-based teaching methods, and social skills instruction. They have two campuses in Richmond, with roughly 30 children, ages 2 to 6, in attendance.

The Infant & Toddler Connection of Virginia also offers an early intervention system for infants and toddlers, ages 0 to 36 months, with disabilities.

Christine Ciarlo has a 5-year-old son, Gabriel, who has autism. He was diagnosed by VCU Medical Center when he was 3 years old.

Her son has high-functioning autism, which means he doesn’t qualify to go to a specialty autism program, but he also doesn’t qualify to be in a traditional preschool program.

He struggled at private preschool and wasn’t allowed to return the second year.

“He’s in the middle. Nobody knows what to do or how to work with him. You’re stuck basically,” Ciarlo said.

Ciarlo found the Infant and Toddler Connection of Chesterfield, which helped Gabriel get into a special needs pre-Kindergarten program at Crestwood Elementary School in Chesterfield County.

“By the grace of God he got in,” Ciarlo said. “I don’t know what I would have done otherwise.”

Now at age 5, he’ll be entering kindergarten in Hanover public schools with an individualized education program. And he still gets ABA therapy every week.

“You want your child to have an education and support. They’re kind of lost. No one knows anything. You’re grasping at straws, Googling, hoping that you’re making the right decision. That was the hardest part. There is no road map,” Ciarlo said.

There are several groups willing to provide training to day cares and schools, such as through the Autism Society of Central Virginia.

But because these processes aren’t streamlined or coordinated for parents of children with disabilities, parents often find themselves alone – searching the internet, trying to figure out the best course of action to find care or support for their child. Many look to hire caregivers on their own through Care.com.

Jamie Serrecchia of Hanover and her son, Levi, who has autism, qualified for a Medicaid waver that provides for care or aides in the home. But the program is beset with problems, most noticeably that the reimbursement rate for care is so low – it is now $10.50 per hour – that finding adequate and appropriate care is extremely difficult.

During COVID, Serrecchia had to worry about who to bring into her home. Her son has two different immune disorders and is at higher risk of developing complications from COVID. She had to ask herself if it was worth the risk. Other parents couldn’t find caregivers willing to enter their houses during the height of the pandemic and lost child care.

Serrecchia estimates that she has hired over 20 attendants through the Medicaid waiver program. It still wasn’t enough.

She lost her job at the state health department because she was getting called out so often to pick up her son from school.

As a single parent and the sole provider, losing her job was scary. Serrecchia now has a job where she works as a consultant with clients. She is able to set her own hours and can work around her son’s schedule, which has become more demanding as he’s gotten older.

Levi, now 12, has struggled so much at school that Serrecchia has decided to reschedule her workload so she can work from home entirely and home-school Levi.

“He’s doing so much better. School was a very bad situation for him. But now he’s thriving and doing awesome,” she said.

Ann Rasmussen of Powhatan County has a 9-year-old son, Philip, with a severe seizure disorder and secondary diagnoses of autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Finding child care for him was so difficult when he was little that by the time he was 2 years old, Rasmussen, who had been working for a nonprofit, left the workforce entirely. Their family qualified for a waiver that allowed for help to come into their home. But, Rasmussen said, “It’s a full-time job, just finding the help and training the help.”

Federal funding for child care has remained largely stagnant over the past 15 years. After adjusting for inflation, today’s per-child funding for young children with disabilities is between one-half and one-third what it was 25 years ago, according to a report from the Center for American Progress. Parents of young children with disabilities would benefit from more funding for early childhood programs covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

“Our culture is not designed to support families with disabled children,” Rasmussen said. Like many parents of children with disabilities, her struggle with child care is just the beginning of a lifetime of care.

“Child care issues do not end … when kids [with disabilities] enter school,” she said. “Out-of-school care is just as difficult, and as kids continue to age and develop, care issues become more complicated.”


Local
Richmond wants ownership of Calhoun Center to facilitate $8 million improvements

An ailing community center in Richmond’s largest public housing neighborhood is poised for a federally funded face-lift under a plan Mayor Levar Stoney unveiled Monday.

But there’s a catch.

Stoney proposed using $8 million of the city’s American Rescue Plan dollars for COVID-19 recovery to fix up the Calhoun Center in Gilpin Court. To facilitate that, however, the city wants the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority to transfer ownership of the center to the city, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

“This is a unique opportunity that allows the city to make a much larger investment than RRHA can afford,” Sam Schwartzkopf, the city spokeswoman, said in an email. “As negotiations are finalized and the requisite approvals are given, the city hopes to own and will maintain the center going forward.”

For Gilpin residents, the Calhoun Center was a hub for recreation in a neighborhood where there are few other options. In recent years, the center has fallen into disrepair. Last year, a lack of hot water and a faulty HVAC system led RRHA to limit the public’s access to the building during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The center’s indoor pool has sat empty since 2013, a long-running source of frustration for some residents. Over the last several months, some members of RRHA’s Board of Commissioners have pushed RRHA’s staff to find a way to repair and reopen the building and pool at the earliest opportunity.

One such option presented to the board last month was transferring ownership of the facility, though a recipient was not named at the time.

Schwartzkopf said in an email that the Stoney administration and RRHA leadership had “agreed in principle” to transfer ownership of the building, but a final agreement would need approval from the housing authority’s governing board, the Richmond City Council and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Neil Kessler, acting chair of the housing authority’s Board of Commissioners, said in an interview that discussions about the future of the center were still in the early stages.

“I’m in support of doing what is necessary to bring Calhoun up to standards,” Kessler said.

It’s unclear whether the $8 million Stoney proposed would cover the cost for a complete renovation of the building or how long those renovations would take.

RRHA recently awarded a $1.35 million contract to make repairs to the building’s HVAC system, said Angela Fountain, an RRHA spokeswoman.

Last month, a consultant told the board it would cost $1.9 million to refurbish and reopen the pool. Those repairs would take at least 11 months to complete after choosing a contractor, the consultant said.

***

Two other RRHA-led redevelopment projects also stand to benefit from Stoney’s proposal.

A $6.8 million allocation would cover infrastructure costs for the first phases of redevelopment at Creighton Court, the East End public housing neighborhood. Earlier this year, RRHA officials and public housing tenant leadership lobbied the city to fund the infrastructure costs. Without the money, the project would face additional delays, they said at the time.

The City Council on Monday approved a preliminary site plan for the mixed-income community that is planned for the property. As many as 700 units of new housing are planned over the next decade.

Fountain, the housing authority’s spokeswoman, said the federal dollars would pay for new streets, alleys, sidewalks, curbs, utilities, lighting, trees and other work that is a precursor for vertical construction. Engineering work will begin immediately, she said, and other work could begin next summer, following relocation of families and demolition of the first 192 units of the 504-unit complex.

Stoney also proposed $5.5 million to cover infrastructure costs for a separate RRHA-led redevelopment in North Richmond. The project, dubbed Highland Grove, is tied to the demolition of the former Dove Court public housing community more than a decade ago. It would bring 122 new homes to the area.

The City Council is scheduled to weigh Stoney’s proposal for the city’s American Rescue Plan money when it meets next month.


Govt-and-politics
breaking
Afghan arrivals paused as Virginia tracks measles exposures with 6 cases confirmed

State public health officials are tracking potential human exposure to measles from six Afghan children who had been evacuated to the United States, primarily through Washington Dulles International Airport, and sent to temporary “safe havens” at eight military bases, including three in Virginia.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed last week that the U.S. temporarily had paused flights of Afghans into Dulles and Philadelphia International Airport because of four cases of measles documented among children who had arrived here as part of a massive evacuation from Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the country on Aug. 15.

The Virginia Department of Health said Tuesday that it had initially confirmed five cases of measles among Afghan arrivals, but added a sixth case later that day, according to Laurie Forlano, deputy director of epidemiology, who said she expects additional cases because of the low vaccination rate against measles and other childhood diseases in Afghanistan. A seventh case has been confirmed in Wisconsin, where refugees are living temporarily at Fort McCoy, The Associated Press reported.

“There is no community transmission in Virginia that has been documented at this time,” Forlano said in an interview on Tuesday.

The department said it is tracing potential exposure to the contagious childhood illness in the Richmond area, Northern Virginia and the Piedmont region, where thousands of Afghan allies and their families are living temporarily until they are resettled in communities across the country.

The Richmond and Henrico County health districts are working with one Richmond-area hospital where people may have been exposed to measles, while the Piedmont Health District is tracing potential exposures at Fort Pickett, near Blackstone in Nottoway County.

Potential exposure also is a concern in Northern Virginia, where refugees entered the country through Dulles and have been initially processed at the Dulles Expo Center nearby in Fairfax County. Some refugees also have received medical care in hospitals in the region.

“On the basis of Dulles, it’s probably quite a significant effort underway,” Forlano said.

The federal government is vaccinating all Afghan arrivals against measles and other childhood diseases that are uncommon in the U.S. Virginia recorded one case of measles last year and two the previous year.

It also is providing vaccines and other prophylactic measures to prevent measles among people who may have been exposed, Forlano said, especially young children, pregnant women and others with compromised immune systems.

“I think what we would be most concerned about are individuals who are too young to be vaccinated ,” she said, referring to children under 1 year old.

The measles threat has arisen despite the U.S. government’s requirement of vaccination against childhood diseases — and offer of vaccination against COVID-19 — for nearly 56,000 Afghans who have been evacuated from Afghanistan to the U.S. through more than a half-dozen other countries. None of the evacuees has arrived in the U.S. directly from Afghanistan.

Previously, almost 2,000 Afghans were flown into Dulles between July 30 and Aug. 14 as part of Operation Allies Refuge, which provided special immigrant visas to allies of the U.S. war effort and their families. Those Afghans then traveled to Fort Lee, near Petersburg, for temporary residence while they were prepared for resettlement in communities across the country.

After the Taliban’s conquest, the U.S. led a massive airlift from the airport in Kabul that evacuated more than 120,000 people — some Americans, some lawful permanent residents with green cards, but most of them potential special immigrant visa holders, their families, and vulnerable Afghans most at risk if they stayed in Afghanistan.

In addition to Fort Lee, the U.S. government established temporary “safe havens” at Fort Pickett, the U.S. Marines Corps base at Quantico and military bases in Wisconsin, New Jersey, Texas, Indiana and New Mexico.

Since mid-August, more than 64,000 people have been evacuated to the United States under Operation Allies Welcome, according to the Department of Homeland Security. About 7%, or almost 4,500, were U.S. citizens, and 6%, or more than 3,800, were green card holders, who were free to travel to their homes after arrival. The remaining 87%, or 55,680, were Afghans, admitted to the country through humanitarian parole, although many may be eligible for special immigrant visas as allies to the U.S. military.

About one-third of the Afghan refugees at Fort Pickett are children, said Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat who represents the base and Nottoway as part of the 7th Congressional District.

“It’s just an extraordinary undertaking,” said Spanberger, who estimated last week that the operation at Fort Pickett uses 5,000 baby diapers a day.

In Northern Virginia, arriving citizens and most green card holders have been processed through a repatriation center set up by the state at the Washington Dulles Airport Marriott Hotel, while Afghans have been taken to the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly. There, they have been processed, tested for COVID-19, offered vaccination and directed to necessary support services.

“It’s humming in there,” said a volunteer at the Expo Center who asked not to be identified. “It’s getting some needed support to some highly, highly vulnerable people.”

The operation fell short initially in coordinating medical care for arriving refugees, who were sent to nearby hospitals for treatment, generally for “low acuity” or less severe medical conditions.

The situation, which The Washington Post first reported last week, prompted Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, both Virginia Democrats, to ask federal officials on Monday to boost support of local hospitals and health care providers, whose capacity already is strained by a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

They told Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and FEMA senior response official Robert Fenton that the government “must do more to develop clear and explicit lines of communication, acknowledge the concerns and questions of local communities, and coordinate the operation so that states and localities can effectively support and backstop the operation with minimal disruption.”

“We remain concerned about the impacts that insufficient coordination and communication have had so far, especially related to healthcare operations in Northern Virginia,” the senators said.

Regional officials faulted the lack of federal coordination among hospitals in Northern Virginia or a plan for transporting refugees back to the Expo Center from hospitals after treatment, as well as the insistence by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officials that all evacuees who hadn’t cleared customs be sent to one hospital instead of being distributed among many.

The Northern Virginia Emergency Response System, an alliance of 16 hospitals and local governments in the region, said it quickly took over the role of coordinating those services so that Northern Virginia hospitals never were overwhelmed at the expense of other patients.

“At no point in time was anyone else turned away from care,” Executive Director Kristin Nickerson said.

“At the end of the day, we’ll do whatever it takes to ensure the continuity of health care delivery in Northern Virginia,” Nickerson said.

Some of the initial problems with care arose from long delays in unloading aircraft waiting on the tarmac at Dulles, which resulted in some refugees going directly to hospitals for care, according to officials at the regional emergency response system, established after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks 20 years ago.

The delays occurred as Homeland Security officials compared passenger manifests with those at airports in the countries from which the refugees had departed. Homeland Security said it resolved those issues within two days.

Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dan Carey estimated that hospitals in Northern Virginia reached about 90% of capacity, but acknowledged, “I think there were some gaps.”

The regional emergency response system and its local partners are seeking reimbursement of hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses, but Carey said, “We see that as a direct federal responsibility.”


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Education
breaking
Chesterfield schools still have at least 100 bus driver vacancies; longtime driver dies of COVID-19

Chesterfield County Public Schools, facing a dire shortage of bus drivers after reopening schools last month, has had 350 applicants in the weeks since it increased pay, but it also had a driver die of complications from COVID-19.

Members of the public called out the school system for not previously disclosing the bus driver’s death publicly ahead of Tuesday’s School Board meeting. Some people in the audience wore red to support bus drivers.

Dawn Marie Harris, who drove Chesterfield buses for 19 years, died Sept. 5, Chesterfield parent Dominique Chatters said during the meeting. Chatters expressed disappointment in the school system’s “lack of acknowledgement of her death.”

Christine Melendez, president of the Chesterfield Education Association, spoke on behalf of bus drivers Tuesday night, sharing their concerns that “the loss of a very beloved employee … was not recognized by people they felt should have been recognizing that employee who gave a very significant part of her life to serve in this community.”

Schools Superintendent Merv Daugherty, who spoke directly after public comment, thanked those who spoke. He then acknowledged Harris’ death later in the meeting.

Daugherty said he was saddened by the death and takes full responsibility for not acknowledging Harris’ passing. He said he will send her family a personal letter this week.

Despite receiving 350 bus driver applications in the past few weeks, the school district still needs to hire more than 100 bus drivers, according to a schools spokesman.

The School Board is asking for a transportation task force to be established and for possible audits of the district’s transportation system.

“We would like for the task force to eventually make recommendations that will address transportation issues and create a long-term plan to resolve those issues going forward,” School Board member Dot Heffron said during Tuesday’s work session.

For years, the beginning of Chesterfield’s school year has been plagued by bus problems, including a lack of bus drivers. The problems have caused students to arrive at school and home late . In 2018, the system had 55 driver vacancies, and it faced a similar shortage the following year. This year, a week before school began, the district asked parents to drive their kids to school. Many did, creating long lines and other difficulties.

Board Vice Chairwoman Ann Coker asked for a 15-minute transportation update at work sessions for the next few months.

Karen York-Sartain, a 10-year bus driver with Chesterfield, said in an interview that the pandemic hasn’t helped the bus driver shortage. She added that the problems lie with transportation administrators.

“I loved the job, I loved getting up and going out at 5 a.m. and getting to know the children and the school administrators, but that has all changed. In the past two to three years it has changed drastically to the point that I still love driving and I love my kids, but I dread waking up in the morning to drive,” York-Sartain said.

Bus drivers are being asked to drive double the number of routes because of the staff shortage. On Tuesday, York-Sartain drove six routes in the morning and six in the afternoon. In previous years, York-Sartain’s normal schedule would be three routes in the morning and three in the afternoon.

Despite the challenges, York-Sartain won’t stop driving her Chesterfield routes because, as a 40-year county resident, she likes driving areas she knows.

Last month, school and county officials announced a $3 hourly pay increase for county bus drivers and $3,000 bonuses. Bus drivers, current and future, are now receiving an hourly rate of $20.21, a bump from the previous $17.21 hourly rate.

While Chesterfield bus drivers are being paid more hourly, their contract covers fewer days than in the previous school year. According to a contract obtained by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, drivers are contracted to work 183 days for six hours a day for the period between Aug. 1, 2021, to June 6, 2022. Last year, drivers worked six hours a day for 202 days.

“Bus drivers are non-exempt employees who are paid for days worked as well as leave days,” schools spokesperson Shawn Smith said. “Bus drivers do not work fewer days this year with the exception of a change with the Friday before Labor Day due to new state legislation for school divisions with a pre-Labor Day start.”

Further clarification from the school system was not available late Tuesday.

York-Sartain said she wasn’t paid for the Friday before Labor Day or the holiday itself.

“They’ve taken away our holiday pay,” York-Sartain said.

Chesterfield bus drivers also receive a $500 bonus twice a year and smaller bonuses if they have perfect attendance and perfect driving.

Chesterfield is having a third bus driver job fair on Sept. 30 from 4 to 8 p.m. at Manchester Middle School.


Education
breaking
In fourth week of the school year, 2,231 students are quarantined in Chesterfield County Public Schools

Chesterfield County Public Schools had 2,231 students quarantined on Monday, according to the district’s daily coronavirus dashboard.

The majority of children in quarantine — 1,250 — are in elementary school or prekindergarten, grades where most students aren’t eligible to be vaccinated for COVID-19. Middle schools had 501 quarantined students and high schools had 480.

At the high school level, Thomas Dale High reported 252 students in quarantine on Monday, the most out of all Chesterfield schools. Falling Creek Middle reported the highest number of middle school student quarantines at 100. And the 122 student cases at Winterpock Elementary were the most among elementary schools on Monday. Chesterfield began publishing student quarantine numbers by school on Monday.

“The information reported for each day includes the students who are coded in the school’s attendance system that day as quarantined,” said Shawn Smith, spokesman for the school division of about 60,000 students. “This includes those who are in quarantine because they tested positive for COVID-19 as well as those who are in quarantine due to an exposure, whether it occurred in school or elsewhere.”

There were more than 250 children hospitalized for COVID last week in Virginia, the highest figure reported in federal data that goes back to July 2020.

There are two quarantine routes for Chesterfield students who are considered close contacts. Fully vaccinated students who are close contacts but don’t have symptoms do not have to quarantine. Unvaccinated students who are close contacts must remain out of school for 14 days.

For households with multiple Chesterfield students, only the exposed child is required to quarantine. If the exposed child develops symptoms, then all children in the house have to quarantine.

Students who test positive for COVID cannot return to Chesterfield schools until 10 days have passed since they first showed symptoms, their symptoms have improved and they are free of fever for 24 hours without medication.

Quarantined students, or any students with an extended absence, are able to access school assignments and communicate with teachers through Canvas, an online learning management system, Smith said. At this time, in-person learning is not converting to virtual learning or live online classes with teachers.

Of the district’s 679 recorded cases as of 1 p.m. Tuesday, 590 cases were reported among students, with the remaining 89 split among staff, transportation, central office and virtual learning staff. The nearly 700-case count starts from when the district reopened on Aug. 23. In the past week, Chesterfield has reported 294 students and 35 teachers tested positive for the virus.

Hanover County Public Schools, which has had seven students test positive as of Tuesday afternoon, does not have quarantine numbers readily available, according to a schools spokesperson.

“The total number of students quarantined is not readily available, as this would require substantial work to compile, reconcile, and produce an accurate count,” said schools spokesman Chris Whitley.

According to the Henrico County Public Schools COVID dashboard, as of Tuesday there are 108 cases among students for the week and no staff cases. It’s unclear when the week time frame begins. A division spokesperson said he was working to find quarantine figures on Tuesday but did not have an immediate answer.

Richmond Public Schools, which opened last Wednesday for the school year, does not have quarantine numbers, according to a school official. RPS has reported 102 student cases and 14 staff member cases since schools opened last week.

In August, shortly after the beginning of the school year for the Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts, all 53 fourth-graders were placed into quarantine after four positive COVID-19 tests. The charter school is part of Richmond Public Schools but has its own board of directors.

The Free Lance-Star reported last week that 5,456 students and staff members in Fredericksburg-area public schools had been quarantined.

All Virginia school districts are required to provide five days a week of in-person learning this year, a result of a new law adopted by state lawmakers. Under the law, schools are not allowed to close unless there is a severe outbreak of the virus.

According to joint guidance from the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Education, temporary school closures should be necessary only if COVID-19 cases or outbreaks need to be brought under control within a school.


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