Richmond Mayor, majority of school board support RPS superintendent virtual learning recommendation

Updated: Dec. 4, 2020 at 4:30 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Richmond City Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras said he will recommend to the school board that the division stay virtual for the second semester.

Kamras said there are three reasons as to why he will recommend sticking with virtual learning. The first reason is due to the rapidly rising infection rates, Kamras said he is concerned for the health and safety of students, staff and families.

“Just yesterday, the United States experienced the highest number of COVID deaths and hospitalizations ever. Here in Virginia, we also hit a new high for hospitalizations,” Kamras said in an update to families.

Kamras said that while research shows the risk of within-school transmission is quite low, it isn’t zero. So if infections were to happen in the schools, “severe consequences are much more likely, given our family and staff demographics.”

Kamras said the second reason he will recommend staying virtual is due to a majority of teachers and families indicating their desire to stay virtual in a survey.

“As of today, 80% of staff and 63% of families selected that option. Of note, the family number goes up to 67% for families of color, and 70% for Black/African-American families. Though certainly not unanimous, the predominant sentiment of the RPS community is clear: remain fully virtual,” Kamras said in his letter.

“The seriousness of COVID is disproportionately affecting our Black and Latino communities which just reflects years and years of preexisting injustice and so it is understandable that particularly our families of color and staff of color are deeply concerned,” said Kamras.

Kamras said his third reason is that “opening up would have a number of unintended consequences that would exacerbate existing inequities.”

Kamras said the division would not be able to provide transportation as all of the buses are used to deliver meals each morning. Therefore, only families with the ability to provide transportation would be able to get their children to school for in-person learning.

“We use our buses every morning to deliver food which is critical for our families. That means we wouldn’t be able to provide transportation for any in person instruction,” said Kamras.

Kamras said there would also be a need to change class rosters for many classes because there would not be enough teachers willing to return and families who would want to do so.

“As a result, a significant number of students would end up with new teachers (and a significant number of teachers would end up with new students). Breaking the student-teacher bond would be harmful to all students, but it would be particularly so for those facing additional challenges given their life circumstances. I firmly believe that the best thing we can offer our students, families, and staff right now is stability,” Kamras said.

While Kamras will recommend virtual learning to the school board Monday, he says he understands there are downsides to remote learning.

“First, while this approach is working well for many students, it is not for others. The long-term academic and social-emotional impacts for these young people are likely to be significant. Second, home is unfortunately not always the safest place for some students. An additional virtual semester will only exacerbate this reality. And third, staying remote means that many working families will continue to struggle with balancing their jobs and childcare,” Kamras said.

To read the full update to families, click here.

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