Richmond School Board votes to approve relief funding

RPS board approves funding

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - In a near-unanimous decision, the Richmond School Board voted 8-1 to approve the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund to receive $54 million to be used for FY22 and FY23.

The board approved the funding with the following amendments:

  • Include $14 million: $8 million for FY22 and $6 million for FY23 to replace the year-round additional learning support
  • Reduce funding for facilitated learning centers from $2.5 to $2.1 million
  • Use $400,000 for increasing custodial staff from 10 to 17 with the addition of one assistant

“I just want to say thank you to the board for approving the spending plan. I am very excited to get this over to the state and then receive those funds so we can begin this work in earnest,” Superintendent Jason Kamras said.

Now, all that’s left is for the board to submit the budget to the state board of education to release the $54 million slated for RPS.

This funding supports the installation of bi-polar ionization in all HVAC systems throughout the division, along with $1 million for needed repairs. The funding could also be used for planning year round-school, though further discussion on that was tabled for a future board meeting.

Though there were some board members critical of the spending plan, Kenya Gibson voted against it saying that the decision felt rushed.

“This application is due on April 1, and I feel that it’s somewhat disingenuous to put the onus of rush to make this decision now,” Gibson said. “Let’s be frank, we are one of two divisions now that has not already reopened and that division was not contingent on these funds in order to make that happen.”

But Kamras says once the money is officially secured, the board is free to make any changes to how that money is used moving forward.

“Throughout the life of the grant - which covers two fiscal years- we can always submit amendments if we find out we were going to send a million dollars on A, but now we want to spend a million dollars on B,” Kamras said.

During the meeting, the board also voted 7-2 to oppose the reopening legislation with board members Liz Doerr and Jonathan Young voting in the minority.

In response, board member Jonathan Young said in part that “In voting to oppose bipartisan common sense reopening legislation in the General Assembly, my colleagues signaled that they are less than committed to in-person education even in the fall.”

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