This story has been updated with new information.
For the remaining four class days of the semester – Dec. 14 to 17 – Fauquier County Public Schools will deliver instruction entirely remotely, the school division announced Friday. (Friday, Dec. 18 is scheduled as a teacher work day.) Classes are scheduled to resume Jan. 7 after winter break. As policy currently stands, the “hybrid” model will resume then.
As of Jan. 26, 569,040 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to Virginia resident…
Local school divisions have sole discretion whether to conduct classes in-person, remotely or some combination of both. Although more than 7,000 students had been receiving two days of in-person instruction per week under the school division’s “hybrid” model, rising numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and a subsequent shortage of available staff members spurred administrators to make the move.
With the announcement, School Board member Stephanie Litter-Reber (Lee District) explained, “This was a result of catastrophic workforce shortages.” She emphasized that the decision was not made, as she put it, “because teachers didn’t want to teach.”
A press release from the school division offered more detail about the staffing shortages. As of Friday afternoon, there were 51 staff members currently instructed to stay home as a result of a positive test result or possible exposure to an infected individual. Additionally, there were 163 staff members absent from work Friday and the school health nurses at three schools were absent. The school division currently employs about 1,900 people.
Metrics provided by the Virginia Department of Health to help school divisions make decisions about learning options show that core indicators for the spread of COVID-19 are not moving in the right direction (see charts below). One indicator -- total number of new cases per 100,000 persons within the last 14 days -- rose in Fauquier from 321.2 to 547.6 in the last 11 days.
Another indicator -- percent change in new cases per 100,000 population during the last seven days compared with the previous seven days -- went from 6.4% on Dec. 1 to 25.0% on Dec. 11.
“The start of the increase in the Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District appears to be temporally related to Halloween, when residents gathered in groups and ignored public health mitigation strategies,” the press release quoted April Achter, Population Health Coordinator for the Rappahannock Rapidan Health District, as saying. “We are now observing a post-Thanksgiving spike in cases as well.”
The Fauquier County School Division reported several new COVID-19 cases on Dec. 10 – one at Greenville Elementary, a staff member (for its second), one at Liberty High, a student (for its second); and one at Grace Miller Elementary, staff member (its fourth in four days).
Ritchie Elementary School reported its first case Dec. 9, in a staff member, and Fauquier High School reported one more case that day, making a total of seven cases there so far.
No outbreaks have been reported in the public school system since schools opened to in-person learning on Nov. 9, but there have been 23 total cases since then. All cases have been reported as isolated incidents. For a more complete look at cases in the school division, visit https://www.fcps1.org/Page/3340.