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December 30, 2020

Return to classrooms delayed at least 2 weeks

File Photo/Lawrence Emerson
The school board Wednesday night voted, 4-1, to delay resumption of hybrid instruction until at least Tuesday, Jan. 19. The semester will begin Wednesday, Jan. 6, with all-virtual classes.
We’re tired and we’re sad that the community is not taking our recommendations. Our job is to protect the community health, and that’s why we’re coming on so strong.
— April Achter, Virginia Department of Health epidemiologist
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Fauquier public schools will delay students’ return to classrooms at least two weeks when the spring semester begins Wednesday, Jan. 6.

Instruction will remain all-virtual through at least Friday, Jan. 15, the school board decided Wednesday night with a 4-1 vote.

The decision came after more than two hours of intense debate via Zoom, during an “emergency meeting” announced just five hours before its 6 p.m. start.

The meeting included two Virginia Department of Health epidemiologists, who expressed concerns about surging COVID-19 cases, increased “community spread” of the virus and the pressure on local hospitals.

With about 35 new cases reported daily over the last week, Fauquier has 2,330 total infections since the pandemic started, as of Wednesday.

“I don’t have strong enough words to express the situation we’re in as a nation,” said April Achter, the Rappahannock Rapidan Health District’s population health director. “It’s grave.”

In Fauquier, a large portion of the population continues to ignore U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Infection guidelines to prevent the spread, Ms. Achter said.

“We’re tired and we’re sad that the community is not taking our recommendations,” she said of public health officials. “Our job is to protect the community health, and that’s why we’re coming on so strong.”

Ms. Achter and Daniel Ferrell, a fellow VDH epidemiologist, stressed that they provide information but don’t make recommendations on school operations.

But, parties and other gatherings have contributed to the virus’s accelerating spread, with more young people infected, Mr. Ferrell said.

Based on the surging cases and discussions with health department officials, Superintendent David Jeck recommended delaying resumption of hybrid instruction, which has about 7,000 students in classrooms two days a week.

Another 3,000 students participate in all-virtual instruction.

“January’s going to be a very, very tough month, there’s no ifs ands or buts about it” because of accelerated virus spread expected from holiday gatherings, Dr. Jeck said.

Board Chairman Duke Bland (Marshall District) agreed, supporting all-virtual instruction through the month.

Mr. Bland voted against the plan to consider resuming hybrid instruction as soon as Tuesday, Jan. 19.

But, the four other board members pushed for in-person instruction as soon as possible.

Donna Grove (Cedar Run) said the issues and the challenges facing families haven’t changed. Spotty internet connectivity, overwhelmed working parents and mental health challenges continue to bolster the case for getting children back in schools, Ms. Grove said.

Susan Pauling (Center) agreed: “We’re transferring the burden from our schools to the community.”

Stephanie Litter-Reber (Lee) and Suzanne Sloane (Scott) stressed that the schools’ mitigation practices worked well from Nov. 9 through Dec. 11, when hybrid instruction took place. No outbreaks of the virus took place within schools, they noted.

But, Mr. Ferrell said that increased community spread poses greater threats to school staff members and students because of what happens outside classes.

Fauquier schools closed Dec. 17 for the winter break. The system shifted to all-virtual instruction the last four days of the semester because of staffing shortages related to the coronavirus, according to administrators.

The school board will review the situation Monday, Jan. 11, and decide whether to restart hybrid instruction or continue with the all-virtual model.

By then, officials hope to know whether the predicted January spike materializes.

Ms. Achter said things should improve in four to six weeks, when most healthcare workers have completed the two-stage vaccinations.

At its annual organizational meeting Tuesday, Jan. 5, the board will discuss whether to resume interscholastic sports for the abbreviated winter season.

Contact “Lou” Emerson at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 540-270-1845.
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ConcernedMom · January 3, 2021 at 9:02 am
Look, its not just about the safety of our students and staff members taking into consideration. Its not just the "small percentage of numbers" our county is displaying. One article that the fauquier paper put out said just how many people in the school system were sick compared to the dashboard reflects different numbers.
Its the bigger picture. Its not oh its the Wuhan virus, 98% survival rate. Its the fact that people are not wearing their masks, not doing what is asked of them for their safety and ours. Its the health care system working tirelessly with numerous amounts of patients who are dying. Hospitals are over whelmed in our area and are afraid that it will end up picking and choosing who gets medical help who doesn't. Put it into the bigger picture.
Your family member has a heart attack and goes to hospital can't get medical help because of overwhelming patients and can't help your family member then you lose them. The over all picture is trying to prevent this!
Here's an article
I'm not arguing with any of you just please thank your local health care theyre working more and harder. They need the extra appreciation.
Linda Ward · January 1, 2021 at 2:21 pm
"46 Percent of Fauquier County government expenditures went to education in fiscal 2020, according to the recent audit report.

Schools received $91.6 million of the year’s “expenses for governmental activities” totaling $198.9 million."

The school system is hemorrhaging money. How can that be?
Silii · January 1, 2021 at 10:04 am
How many Fauquier residents traveled over the holidays to visit relatives, friends, etc., and have Christmas around others not in the immediate family? How many traversed overcrowded airports and flew? How many had Christmas get togethers in their houses with family and friends? Why do folks in Fauquier continue to find it impossible to wear a mask in stores or, even more dumb, not cover their noses with a mask? This pandemic will only get worse until people wise up, follow safety warnings about spread of the virus, and join the cause to stop the spread. Otherwise, our schools will just not reopen. What is so darn difficult about this to understand?
Tony Bentley · December 31, 2020 at 4:29 pm
Dead is dead. There is no comparison or statistic that will change that.
ella82 · December 31, 2020 at 2:21 pm
Some of these comments are unbelievable...things that would come right of the mouths of Fox News crowd and their stupidly denying acolytes insisting that there is no pandemic. Just keep denying and by the end of January there will be another 150,000 dead and your door may just be the one it comes knocking on.
brandonj · December 31, 2020 at 10:42 am
Nothing has changed. Still only 28 dead, mostly from elderly and many from the nursing facility. You know it's a place you put ailing members of society in close proximity.

Masks might offer marginal protection at best. Look at California. Draconian lockdowns and mandatory masks, yet still tons of cases. Preschools weren't required to wear masks and there were no cases before the recent mandate in December. The fact that I've seen people wearing masks outdoors walking/hiking, pumpkin picking, xmas tree cutting, etc. is an indicator of how insane this has gotten. You are NOT going to get sick walking by someone in the woods.

Like every other pandemic the virus spreads in dense communities. Fortunately for us, Fauquier is (drum roll please)... not dense. Well, except for the bureaucrats in charge of schools.
Demosthenes · December 31, 2020 at 10:27 am
The math gets confusing, as you might have seen with all of Sloan's questions last night.

MSpare - They use cases per 100,000 as a basic measure so that comparisons can be quickly made and understood between different areas. So no, Fauquier does not have 100,000 people, but they adjust our numbers to be out of 100,000 so that experts can quickly see how we compare to our neighbors or to areas that previously had spikes. And the 9% (I think it was actually 8.2%) is not out of the total population. That is looking at what percentage of people being tested for covid are coming back with a positive result. The point in keeping track of that number is to show that it has been increasing (it was 7 in early Dec), so we know that the total number of cases going up is NOT just because of more testing. There is more testing but we also have a greater percentage of people who are tested showing infection. That stat, combined with increasing numbers being treated for serious infection in our hospital, shows that the spread in our community is getting worse at the moment.
MSpare · December 31, 2020 at 9:34 am
My math needs correction. Since pandemic 3.253% infectious rate, last 14 days .286% rate, not the over 9% infected rate in the county.
badelectronics · December 31, 2020 at 8:59 am
GRLJA wants many DEAD people!
Just like the four pardoned murderers, right?
Never enough death for them.
MSpare · December 31, 2020 at 8:56 am
Just another observation with the numbers shown on a PowerPoint presentation during the meeting. The health people stated that there was 564.6 new cases per 100,000 people positivity rate of 9.2% based off of that number, based off of a population of 100,000 people. First, there is only a population of 71,802 in Fauquier county. They also said there was 206 confirmed cases in the last 14 days. The math means we have an infectious percentage rate of .002869 based on 71,802. Even if you take the total number of people infected since March in the county, that is only .03245. Where and how are they doing the math? What percentage is need to shut down 3%, 5%? If so, we are nowhere near those percentage rates.
RGLJA · December 31, 2020 at 8:43 am
Finally we have a school board who is taking their duties seriously to represent the community. 5-0 votes that just rubberstamp the administration position is not helpful. Of course these are all tough decisions, but at least a majority on the board is now weighing both sides of these issues fairly. We all know these virtual learning experiments have been a very poor substitute for real classroom learning. Let's get back to work and educate our children.
MSpare · December 31, 2020 at 8:27 am
As I listened to the emergency zoom board meeting last night I couldn't help but hear how Mr. Bland didn't get the message being presented to him by the other four board members. He's position on delaying in-person learning through the entire month of January was insane. All he had to do was observe the spotty connectivity issues with the meeting itself and see just how difficult it would be and has been for students to learn virtually. He was completely oblivious to the problem. I have written many emails about my concerns to the board throughout this school year and have heard back from 2. Listening to the board last night I finally felt like I as well as many others was finally heard by all, except Mr. Bland. Thank you for the debate you had last night on the fight to get our kids back into school. Job well done. As was noted by several members, the mitigation practices have been and are working in the schools. Contrary to the arguments made by the some teachers and their union, there is no death sentence for returning to school, the opposite has been true. Staff has been infected outside the school during their regular daily routines, not the students infecting teachers. As for the community failing to do their part, I agree. If the community wants the kids back in school as I do, then our community needs to step-up, pay attention, and stop being a bunch of irresponsible buffoons, for a kinder word, and do what they need to do so we can have our kids back in school 5 days a week. What's coming next from the teachers union is obvious for all to see. A vaccination is coming and we all should get it, but that won't be enough for them, it will still be unsafe to return to in person learning because they will claim not enough people got it or it is to soon to tell how it is going to work. It will happen and they will find an excuse. I live and shop here and consistently see people not wearing mask while shopping or have the mask cover their mouth with nose exposed. First, they should not be allowed to enter a store without a mask, and that's on the stores for allowing them in, and second, the virus is spread through the air particles that exit your nose as well. So not covering your nose is just plain stupid. Wearing a mask protects others as well as yourself, stop being inconsiderate and disrespectful to others and wear it properly. Maybe the stores around here will start enforcing the mask mandate when they get hit with a fine of up to $2500 per person not wearing a mask. Wonder how that will effect their bottom line?
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Thursday, January 21
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Thursday, January 21
Fauquier infections total 3,178 since pandemic started — up 21 Thursday, health department reports
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