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Henrico Schools Delay In-Person Return Indefinitely, Citing Nurse Shortage

School buses
Henrico's superintendent says vaccinating teachers and staff over the next few weeks will require "all hands on deck." That means school nurses will not be available to work out of school buildings. (Photo: Ian Stewart/VPM)

In a Tuesday letter to families and staff, Henrico Superintendent Amy Cashwell announced a delay to in-person learning, for the second time this month. This time, Cashwell says school reopenings are being delayed indefinitely.

She says the need to delay a return to in-person is because of a shortage of school nurses. The district will need to pull all its nurses from its schools to aid in administering the COVID-19 vaccine to other HCPS teachers and staff.

“This undertaking is ambitious and requires an ‘all hands on deck’ effort by our community,” her letter says.

The lack of nurses in schools, however, means Henrico schools no longer meet the staffing criteria needed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in schools, making it impossible for the district to move forward with its plans to bring large numbers of students back to classrooms.

HCPS teachers and staff are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine under Phase 1B of Virginia’s vaccination efforts. Cashwell says the school district’s vaccination of staff members “may last until some point in late February,” since they will need to receive two doses weeks apart.

“I humbly ask for patience and forgiveness, particularly from our teachers who are eager to return to in-person learning, as well as from our families who enthusiastically opted to return their students to our schools,” the letter reads. “Let there be no doubt about the overwhelming good that comes from getting through vaccinating all of ‘Phase 1B’ expeditiously. This is a tremendously positive step for the entire Henrico County community.”

Vaccinations for HCPS teachers and staff are expected to begin as early as next week.