FREDERICK COUNTY, Virginia — The debate over whether or not to send students back to school continues. Some area schools are still trying to navigate how to safely bring students back in-person.
Meanwhile, others have been back in the classroom for weeks. WUSA9 spoke with two area superintendents to see how they have been able to pull off the return to in-person learning.
Frederick County students returned to school with an in-person hybrid plan the day after Labor Day. Teachers returned in mid-August to practice safety protocols. Currently, 67% of students are in school at least two days a week and distance learning the other three days. The remaining students opted to stick with virtual learning. Kindergarten and first grade students are in-person four days a week, while the older students are coming in just two times per week.
"Since we returned in mid-August with teachers, to date we've had a total of 24 positive cases and we're currently working with five active positive cases," said Frederick County Schools Superintendent David Sovine.
Those numbers are out of about 16,000 students and staff. With rigorous contact tracing, Sovine said they've been able to isolate positive cases to keep schools open.
In Spotsylvania County, K-12 grade levels also returned to the classroom on Oct. 12. About half of the student body there opted for the in-person hybrid learning, while the rest chose to remain virtual full-time.
According to Superintendent Dr. Scott Baker, there were zero positive cases the first week back in-person. However, the district is dealing with some cases now.
"We communicate with both the staff and community and maintain a dashboard to see how cases are progressing," said Dr. Baker.
Both districts work closely with the Virginia Department of Health to closely monitor those numbers. So far, they have not had to close any school buildings because of positive cases.
Masks and social distancing are required in the building and on the bus in both counties. On school buses, only one student per seat is allowed, which means drivers are doubling up on routes.
The plan for next semester depends on health statistics at that time, but school officials said the goal is to at least be able to sustain the hybrid learning model they have in place now.
Both superintendents stressed the key to a successful return to school has been communication and teamwork.
"I think it's the quality and tenacity of our people working together that has been what's enabled us to be where we are right now. We are humbled by the opportunity to provide this, but by no means do we think if someone else hasn't been able to make that transition yet that there's something wrong with them and something great about us," said Dr. Baker.