This information is intended to keep the Henrico community updated on how Henrico County Public Schools is monitoring health data in an effort to gradually return to in-person learning. In doing so, we want to provide information pertaining to two key questions:

  • What is HCPS’ plan for bringing students back to school in person?
  • What are the criteria for opening school buildings and a timeline for evaluation?

HCPS will use a comprehensive, data-driven process and timeline to guide our forthcoming recommendations and decisions.

CURRENT PANDEMIC STATUS: Substantial/High Community Transmission


CURRENT “HCPS CONTINUUM OF REOPENING APPROACHES” STATUS: Approach 2 (Substantial/High Burden)

For the week ending Sept. 5, COVID-19 presents a substantial/high burden to the public and the transmission trend is fluctuating in Virginia’s Central Region, according to data from the Virginia Department of Health reviewed by the Henrico County Public Schools Health Committee.

HCPS’ Health Committee meets every two weeks to consider current pandemic conditions and trends in the region and in Virginia, with a goal of safe expansion of in-person learning. The committee, made up of 16 individuals from the Henrico Health District, Henrico County Public Schools, the HCPS Student Health Advisory Board and the community, makes regular presentations to the School Board. HCPS uses that status to determine what instructional approach, as illustrated on a continuum, we can safely use to conduct in-person classes.

HCPS’ continuum of reopening includes four approaches:

  • Approach 1 (Stay-at-home order): No in-person instruction. Schools closed to the public.
  • Approach 2 (Substantial/high burden): Most students learning online with students seen in person on a limited basis. Schools are open to the public on a limited basis.
  • Approach 3 (Moderate burden): Smaller groups of students in classrooms and schools are open to the public on a limited basis.
  • Approach 4 (Low burden): Larger groups of students in classrooms (most, if not all, students back on campus) and schools are open to the public.

The current pandemic status is based on the extent of coronavirus transmission in our region, determined each Monday by calculating the average composite “burden” and trend scores from the previous week. 

The burden level (Substantial/High, Moderate, Low or None) is determined using a weighted average of eight indicators, which includes such things as the incidence rate per 100,000 people; the percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus using a “PCR” lab test; and the rate of COVID-19 outbreaks (defined as two or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 connected by person, place, and/or time) per 100,000 people. 

The regional trend (increasing, fluctuating or decreasing) is determined using a 14-day window. If the number of cases declines for 14 days, the trend is “Decreasing”; if positive cases increase for 14 days, the trend is “Increasing,” and a mixture during a 14-day window is considered “Fluctuating.”

What is HCPS’ plan for bringing students back to school in person? Are there criteria for opening school buildings and a timeline for evaluation?

Transitioning from a predominantly virtual approach to a hybrid approach will depend on several criteria. These include the Virginia Department of Health’s “Community Transmission and Data Trends for the Central Region,” combined with the data available for Henrico County, to determine when to shift to a hybrid approach to learning. The Virginia Department of Health determines a current “burden level” for coronavirus conditions, based on three factors: the case incidence rate per 100,000, the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) percent positivity, and the outbreaks per 100,000 (as well as the trends associated with these three metrics.)

The current coronavirus “burden level” will affect HCPS’ evolving approach to instruction:

  • A substantial/high burden level would align with HCPS’ Instructional Approach 2. The availability of the needed personal protective equipment (PPE) and staff considerations would be used to determine whether to incorporate limited in-person instruction.
  • A moderate burden level would align with Instructional Approach 3. Again, the availability of the needed PPE and staff considerations would be used to determine the appropriateness of transitioning to the alternating-day hybrid option.
  • A low burden level would align with Instructional Approach 4. As with the other levels, the availability of the needed PPE and staff considerations would be used to determine whether to transition to in-person instruction for most, if not all, students. 

Prior to recommending a shift in approach, HCPS will determine:

  • That the necessary personal protective equipment is available to ensure the health and safety of staff and students. 
  • That the supply chain can sustain a four-week supply of PPE in schools. 
  • Whether staff members affirm that the HCPS COVID-19 Health Plan and risk-mitigation strategies are playing out effectively in HCPS classrooms. 
  • How a given recommendation will affect daily attendance rates.
  • Employee and community confidence in the return to in-person learning.

TIMELINE OF FUTURE UPDATES AND RECOMMENDATIONS:

HCPS teaching and learning remains in a predominantly virtual environment for the first nine weeks of the 2020-21 school year. As of Sept. 10, there have been no recommendations and no decisions beyond the first nine weeks. Here is a timeline of upcoming events:

Sept. 24: Committee update to Henrico School Board.

Oct. 8: Committee update to Henrico School Board.

Oct. 22 School Board meeting: Target date for committee recommendation concerning which approach will be used for the second nine weeks (also called the second marking period) of the school year, which begins Nov. 16.

Examples of what HCPS is doing to prepare for the return of students to school buildings

(Not an exhaustive list)

  • Enhanced virtual training for HCPS employees regarding COVID awareness and prevention
  • Educating families on safe practices and risk-mitigating interventions.
  • Installation of plexiglass in main offices, school counseling offices and other select areas of the schools. 
  • Hand sanitizer and additional cleaning/disinfecting products for every classroom.
  • Purchased Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including face coverings, for employees.
  • Purchased face coverings for the use of students who don’t bring their own.
  • Floor stickers and signage indicating proper 6-foot distancing.
  • Reimagined in-school meal service to eliminate touchpoints and large group gatherings.
  • Determined enhanced cleaning schedules of high-touch areas in schools.
  • Determined classroom layouts that allow for proper physical distancing.
  • Determined seating arrangements, as well as entry and exit plans that maintain physical distancing on school buses.
  • Developed plans to thoroughly clean school buses and other vehicles in between uses.
  • Required self-screening procedures for HCPS employees and students.
  • Health screenings for visitors to school property.
  • Collaborating with the Henrico Health Department to respond to positive cases, exposures and potential exposures.
  • Reviewing 500+ mechanical systems with an engineering consultant and building-automation experts to determine what type and extent of mechanical system changes need to be completed. Review of these systems incorporates the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control as well as the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers for any system modifications or alterations.
  • Flushing HCPS buildings (which means continuous air operation) for one full week prior to faculty and staff returning. Additionally, flushing is performed for two hours each day prior to the start of each school day
  • Upgrading filters in accordance with the system capabilities and designs.
  • Maximizing outside air provisions in accordance with the system designs.