RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Jason Kamras says the tentative plan for the 2021-22 school year is for Richmond Public Schools to be fully in-person and to maintain a virtual pathway for families to remain virtual.
“I would agree with all of the board members how important it is that we recognize the challenges that our young people are making and the challenges that they faced before the pandemic many of which have only been exacerbated during the pandemic,” Kamras said. “The reality of virtual instruction is that it’s imperfect and we know for data here in Virginia and around the country that learning loss is likely to be significant.”
One of the things the superintendent is proposing with the plan is additional instruction time in the form of seven additional weeks of instruction for 5,000 of the district’s highest-need students.
This would be broken up into three sections:
- 3 weeks in July/August right before school (“Jump Start”),
- 2 weeks in November (“Fall Boost”), and
- 2 weeks in March (“Spring Boost”)
Students who attend all additional weeks would receive 32 extra days of instructions from a typical school year. Kamras says this plan would be strongly encouraged for the students targeted, but not mandatory.
“We would identify these students using primarily score on reading passements that are grade level appropriate,” Kamras said. “We would work very hard to develop a suite of incentives to make it enticing for young people to participate.
In the new plan, the teachers working those weeks would do so on a voluntary basis. Teachers would also be compensated with pay that Kamras says is nearly double the rate for extra duty pay at $40 an hour.
Teachers who worked all seven of these additional weeks would earn approximately $10,000 for the year.
Four full-day and two half-day teacher workdays would also be built into the schedule.
Students who participate in the additional weeks would have their summer vacation cut from an 8-week vacation to just 5 weeks.
“It doesn’t mean that we also don’t want to focus intently on students’ social and emotional wellbeing,” Kamras said. “There are major investments that we are hoping to make for the social and emotional health of students, many of which we are better able to provide if we have more time with our kids next year.”
The official start of school under the proposed calendar would be Aug. 17.
Some board members drew criticism with the proposed 2021-22 calendar believing that Kamras had previously been in talks with the teacher advisory council and members of RPS administration before a survey was given to the community for input.
I felt really blindsided by that,” Stephani Rizzi said. “If you’ve already been talking about this with teachers and we don’t know anything about it that put’s us at a disadvantage.”
But Kamras said that he never had any discussions with teacher groups about any form of the proposed calendar.
“Of coursed talked with teachers, but the last proposal was shared with the school board,” Kamras said. “I always seek input from my principal advisory council, teacher advisory council … on everything we do when we formulate ideas such at this, but proposals come to the board first, but we have conversations about those ideas to help develop those proposals.”
“We have extraordinary needs if we are going to reach the goals and dreams we have set forth for RPS and the hills we have to climb just got a lot higher,” Kamras said. “I do think this is an extraordinarily challenging moment in time and I think it calls for an extraordinarily ambitious response.”
In terms of sustainability, Kamras says there is potential for the proposal in the 2021-22 school calendar to be completely funded for the next three years if President Joe Biden’s stimulus plan is passed in its entirety.
At the end of the meeting, the board passed a motion to approve the fiscal year 2021-22 budget minus the stimulus funding to encompass $340,945,776 from the general fund and $6,126,500 in capital funding. The request will need to be submitted to the city by Friday, Feb. 19th.
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