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Blindsided by Vaccine Shortage, Chesterfield Maintains In-Person Learning Plans

Sign in front of school
The marquee in front of Robious Elementary, where students are expected to return on Feb. 1. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

*VPM reporter Ian Stewart contributed to this story.

Chesterfield County only received 1,000 vaccines from the state Monday, a small fraction of its original request. According to a staff email from Chesterfield Superintendent Merv Daugherty. Chesterfield schools will only get 750 doses, forcing the district to adjust its vaccination efforts.

The email says the Chesterfield Health Department initially ordered 8,000 shots and expected to receive at least half of that, but instead they only got 1,000. CCPS surveyed staff to gauge interest ahead of ordering the vaccines.

Because of the limited supply, only bus drivers, juvenile detention home staff and school based-staff working with Cohort 1 special education students will get the first dose of the vaccine later this week. Vaccinations for other elementary school teachers and staff have been delayed until further notice.

Despite the change, Daugherty told CCPS staff the school division will move forward with its school reopening plan, which aims to have all elementary school students back in the classroom by Feb. 1. 

“The decision to return these students to in-person learning was made before we even knew vaccines might be available in Chesterfield,” Daugherty’s email says. The Chesterfield school board made the call on Jan 12 through a 4-1 vote.

CCPS has not reached a date for middle and high school students to return to in-person learning. Virtual classes will remain an option for all students.

Groups of school staff and Chesterfield parents have called on the school division to remain virtual until all teachers are vaccinated.

Prior to this vaccination delay, CCPS educators asked the Chesterfield School Board to reconvene and delay in-person instruction until at least March, when all school teachers and staff were expected to be immunized by. 

A petition has also been signed by thousands of Chesterfield community members urging the district to delay in-person classes.

“The Chesterfield Health District will place another large order today, with hopes that a larger delivery will arrive next week,” Daugherty’s email said. “We are actively working with state leaders and requesting that they clarify at this time what they consider a realistic weekly delivery total to be and will design a flexible distribution plan accordingly.”