RPS still discussing plan to reopen in spring for ‘limited number of students’

RPS to discuss spring reopening for ‘limited number of students’

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Richmond Public Schools board did not make a decision Tuesday night on a plan for a small-scale return to in-person learning. Governor Ralph Northam has given public schools a directive to reopen in some capacity by March 15.

“Our facilities are not in the shape we need them to be. We are hopeful we will be able to make a lot of those improvements over the next few months using the federal stimulus, but we don’t have those funds just yet,” explained Superintendent Jason Kamras. “While the vaccine is great, only 30% of the workforce has their first dose, and the percentage who have both doses is under 10%. For all those reasons, I am recommending we remain virtual.”

Kamras says he still wants RPS to be responsive to the governor’s request, as well as the needs of students facing the greatest challenges.

“We are working on a proposal to bring back a limited number of students who have IEPS and our English learners those who are in the highest need category,” he said. “Something on the order of our 100 highest-need students, ideally that is something we would be able to do on a safety perspective and staffing perspective by after spring break.”

Kamras says right now, RPS is not prepared to reopen by March 15, and the district is looking at a reopening after spring break. For students who would be eligible for an in-person return, going back to a school building will be voluntary.

“Our academic team is looking at some thresholds based upon what students IEPS say, and based upon how severe the English language lack of proficiency is and based on that makes some determinations,” he said.

During a six hour School Board meeting to discuss a proposal to bring back 100 highest-need students after Spring Break.

The plan would be to identify those young people and the staff that would be willing to teach them on a completely voluntary basis.

2021 Spring Calendar

  • Maintains our virtual instructional program for the remainder of the school year.
  • Also offers in-person instruction to a small number of our highest-need students with IEPs and our highest-need English learners (completely voluntary for students and teachers).

“What we’re currently looking at in this Spring reopening proposal is given the need to focus and limit the number of seats we’re proposing to provide for K-2 students who are high need and are in self-contained classrooms and that’s about 57 students,” Chief Academic Officer Dr. Tracey Epp said. “That also includes about four students who are significantly visually impaired. Similarly it would also include 50 students who are English second language learners.”

Kamras says that teachers returning to the classroom would be a voluntary effort and that no teacher would be pressured to return to the classroom.

“This would be a relatively small number of teachers given the number of students we’re talking about so we do feel confident that there would be enough individuals who would volunteer to do so,” Kamras said. “We would create a process to do so to the relevant teacher because these would be very specialized individuals.”

As far as getting those students in need to and from school Karmas says RPS would contracted bus services to provide transportation.

The board did not make a decision to approve the proposal to bring a select number of students in need back after Spring break. That decision will be finalized next week.

“That decision does not need to be made tonight, but it does need to be made very soon,” Kamras said. “We want to be very thoughtful and judicious about how we approach this and so we think doing this after Spring Break would be the best approach.”

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