After a week of missed classes due to winter weather, students are back in Prince William County schools as the division presses forward with in-person learning amid rising COVID cases.
The division is reporting new highs in its case counts, with positive student cases jumping from 283 on Dec. 17 – when schools let out for winter break – to 1,051 as of Wednesday, with another 1,132 in quarantine due to close contacts. Over that period, staff cases have risen from 145 to 419. There are just under 90,000 students in the division and about 11,000 staff members.
Schools are also ramping up COVID testing since students returned from the extended break in an effort to catch cases before other students come into contact. Last week, the division received about 20,000 tests from a third-party vendor for schools to use, with another 40,000 or so expected to arrive over the next couple of weeks. Rapid tests are supposed to be available at every school for students and staff exhibiting COVID symptoms, others are expected to be available for at-home use, with details on requesting one coming later this week.
The division also hopes to vaccinate more students against the virus, with a vaccine clinic at Unity Braxton Middle School near Manassas planned Thursday. Vaccinated students don’t need to quarantine for most kinds of exposures unless they show symptoms, whereas unvaccinated close contacts are required to quarantine for at least seven days.
Last week, School Board Chair Babur Lateef told InsideNoVa that the school system plans to amend its quarantine policy to reduce the required time out of school, but so far the division hasn’t released its plans for doing so.
Early this week, most schools appeared to be managing the rise in cases despite an already depleted number of substitute teachers, although a number of schools have asked teachers to step in for additional substitute work and some have asked for patience from families around transportation due to a lack of bus drivers.
“Everybody’s just trying to get the kids back on schedule and trying to figure out dealing with the substitute issue,” Maggie Hansford, president of the local teacher’s association, told InsideNoVa. “Everybody’s just trying to do their best.”