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More Secondary Students Opt For Virtual Learning In Chesterfield

Robious Middle
The last group of Chesterfield County students--those in middle and high school--will be allowed to return to in-person classes Tuesday. But when numbers are compared of returning students in the secondary level versus the numbers of those who’ve returned to elementary schools, one group outweighs the other.  (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)  

Chesterfield County schools anticipate more than 13,000 middle and high school students will be returning to the classroom for in-person instruction. 

But the school district says more students will be learning from home. 

According to data from Chesterfield County Public Schools, over 20,000 secondary students plan to stick with virtual learning. And the majority of them are in high school. Chesterfield currently has over 60,000 students, which is lower than last year due the fallout from the pandemic.

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For Jill Hellman’s three children, the decision to go back to school really came down to what learning environment they thrive in the most. 

“We were absolutely sure that our middle schooler has not done well, virtually. And so it was not a hard decision for us to make for him,” Hellman said.

Hellman says it was harder to decide what to do with her other kids. Two of the three will be going back. Hellman’s oldest daughter won't be, in order to help with scheduling.

“It just enables her the extra time in between classes that she wouldn't otherwise have if she's commuting back and forth to school, she said.

According to data from the school district, about 46 percent of middle schoolers and 35 percent of high schoolers plan to go back to school in-person. 

Here’s the breakdown of middle school students returning versus staying virtual.

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Here’s the breakdown of high school students.

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There are 39 elementary schools in the county. Out of that 39, 18 have more than 50% of students choosing to remain virtually, and 21 have more than half returning to in-person classes.

Chesterfield County has 20 elementary schools that are Title 1 schools. Those schools receive funds based on the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Most of their students will remain in virtual classes; only 6 of the 20 schools will have majority in-person education. Elementary students had the option to return to in-person learning last month.

Chesterfield County isn’t the only school system expanding learning options this month. 

More school districts will follow suit. Governor Ralph Northam has called on all public schools to make in-person learning options available by March 15.