CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- The first day of school jitters in Chesterfield appeared to target parents more than the students this year as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
Tunstall Willis’ children were dropped off for the first day of classes at Bettie Weaver Elementary and Midlothian Middle School by car on Monday morning.
“We have decided to keep them off the bus as much as possible. Not only just for the fact they’ll probably run late, but it’s also mitigation and to ward off COVID as best as we can,” Willis said.
“That’s kind of always been a problem with Chesterfield County School buses. They are notorious for being late and dropping off late,” said Joy Hickman who lives in Brandermill.
Willis’ fears for her children returning to the classroom are compounded by a rise in the Delta variant of the coronavirus. Her oldest son is vaccinated while her 5th-grade daughter is not yet eligible for the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
“I think yesterday I was nervous. I think all parents are a little nervous,” Willis explained. “It’s scary. I would be lying if I hadn’t had my fair share of tears and angst of going to school.”
She is comforted by the fact that Virginia students are required to wear face masks while learning inside the school. However, Willis is aware that some students will receive religious or medical exemptions to not be required to wear a mask.
“I am bracing myself for my two children to have to quarantine and possibly go virtual at some point,” she stated. “I am bracing myself for the worst. I feel like people need to go out, get the vaccine and wear a mask. We have to push through this.”
Chesterfield County joins the majority of Virginia reporting a high risk for transmission of COVID-19, according to a map provided by the Centers for Disease Control. Chesterfield Schools reported two positive COVID-19 cases that occurred within the staff at Bailey Bridge Middle School and Mataoca High School on Sunday.
Chesterfield Education Association President Christine Melendez told CBS 6 she hasn't received much information from current employees outside of being asked to cover for classes in situations in which there may be a vacancy or a teacher in quarantine.
Julie Haynes Kratzer also drove her Clover Hill Elementary students to school.
“It is nerve-racking especially with that variant and there’s a lot of talk that more kids are getting sick this time,” Kratzer said. “It’s definitely in the back of my mind, ‘How long will they really be in school? Will we make it very far?’ So we will see.”
Her daughter is eager to ride the bus again but Kratzer told her she will have to wait until next year.
“I know they need that interaction, that social connection as well. I’m happy they’re getting that and they’re happier. At the same time as a parent, I’m worried,” Kratzer said.
Meanwhile, the line at Clover Hill Elementary stretched past Woodlake Parkway well after the 2:15 p.m. final bell. Kratzer said she waited about an hour to pick up her students from their school.