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LCPS operating better than most

Like all schools in the commonwealth, Lunenburg County Public School (LCPS) is dealing with educating students amid a pandemic; however, LCPS is one of few schools district reporting COVID-19 positive cases under a count of 15 since the start of classes.

According to LCPS Superintendent Charles Berkley Jr., the school district is currently sitting at 13 positive cases since the school opened Aug. 16.

The August opening marked the school division’s start of the new term offering five days of in-person instruction to all students for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of Monday, Sept. 20, LCPS was reporting five cases at Central High School, three at Lunenburg Middle School, two at Kenbridge Elementary School and four at Victoria Elementary School.

“Some cases have resulted in close contact while being quarantined; others who tested positive did not have any exposure at school,” Berkley said.

Berkley said that one student at CHS and one student at KES tested positive for the virus before school began, so they were counted as a positive case as it did impact their attendance.

Decreased attendance is another matter facing school districts across the commonwealth in the wake of COVID-19.

“In our district, we examine chronic absenteeism monthly when monitoring attendance,” Berkley said. “Chronic absenteeism takes into account both unexcused and excused absences.”

According to the Virginia Department of Education, chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10% or more of the academic year for any reason, including excused absences, unexcused absences and suspensions.

Based on a 180-day school year, that means approximately 18 days per year or two to three days per month.

At its core, chronic absence measures when students miss so much school that they are at risk of not being prepared for kindergarten, learning to read by third grade, failing courses in middle school and dropping out of high school.

According to Berkley, within the last two years, from the start of school to the end of August, the school district has seen chronic absenteeism rates operating at 92% or higher.

“However, this school year,” Berkley said, “from the first day of school to the end of August, rates were operating between 75% and 88%.”

Berkley pointed out that COVID has affected attendance.

“COVID-19 has affected the attendance rate in more than one way due to increased barriers and challenges associated with attendance,” Berkley said.

LCPS offers students the opportunity to learn virtually through Virtual Virginia for those who do not feel safe returning to in-person instruction.

Though LCPS educators do not teach those students, they are considered part of the school division.