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Albemarle County and Charlottesville public schools haven’t established protocols to shut down schools as they ponder plans for in-person reopening.

Beth Cheuk, Charlottesville City Schools spokesperson, wrote in an email Wednesday that school districts across the nation are grappling with similar questions. 

“We’re in consultation with the state and local health department on these matters,” she said. 

Albemarle County Public Schools said there are multiple factors that would have to be considered to decide whether to cease in-person learning or move from an all-virtual school to a hybrid one. 

“We don’t have a check-list or one or two measurements in particular that would be decisive,” Phil Giaramita, a county schools spokesperson, wrote in an email.

Giaramita also wrote in an email that the county schools would base its decision on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Thomas Jefferson Health District, executive orders by Gov. Ralph Northam and local ordinances from the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors that would limit how many people could be in a given space.

“We also would factor in the latest data from the health department around positive COVID-19 test results and transmission as well as the status of testing in the state and the county,” Giaramita said. “Also important are the availability of staff and resources that would be needed to implement any instructional or health plans and the feedback we are receiving from parents, students and employees.” 

It is troubling that the districts have no metric system to close the schools, said Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton, an associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care at the University of Virginia. 

It is difficult to pin down a metric when the numbers change so quickly, she said, adding that not being able to narrow down a metric is also one of the reasons school divisions should hesitate before they reopen. 

“That’s why we should not open until we know,” she said. 

The first COVID-19 case documented in the U.S. was in January. That means there has been ample time nationally to develop a plan, she said. 

Plans now only exist at the local level. There should be a national framework to go by, she said.

Wednesday morning, the Thomas Jefferson Health District reported six new cases, giving it a cumulative total of 1,669. Additionally, 135 people have been hospitalized and 30 have died in the district, which is made up of Charlottesville and Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson counties.

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Billy Jean Louis

Billy Jean Louis joined Charlottesville Tomorrow as its education reporter in April 2019 and is a graduate of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jean Louis speaks English, Haitian Creole and French.