RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A bill requiring all school districts to provide full-time, in-person learning is heading to Governor Ralph Northam to be passed.
If Northam signs the bill as it stands, the requirement would take effect July 1, but ultimately Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras says this bill won’t affect RPS because they were already committed to getting students back in the classroom come fall.
“My goal is to be back 100 percent in-person for next school year, and I think that’s just critical for our young people, our teachers and staff, everybody,” Kamras said.
During the Tuesday RPS Board meeting, the board voted 7-2 to oppose the reopening legislation, but Kamras says the majority of members expressed that localities have the sole power to determine when schools open not the state.
“Who controls local school policy? As I’ve shared before the Virginia constitution says that’s school boards,” Kamras said.
In the meantime, Kamras is looking forward. Tuesday the board also passed its spending plan in order to receive $54 million in federal relief after the plan is reviewed by the Department of Education. At this time, Kamras says $6 million is being reserved to upgrade the air filtration systems in all of the district’s schools.
“This is a system that helps filter out not just viruses, but mold, dust and all kinds of particulates that affect the air quality,” Kamras said.
Kamras is also pushing to use that relief money to stretch the school year seven weeks over the course of the year to help students who need it most. The optional sessions would be split up into three groups:
- 3 weeks in July/August right before school (“Jump Start”),
- 2 weeks in November (“Fall Boost”), and
- 2 weeks in March (“Spring Boost”)
“This would offer small group intensive support to help kids catch up,” Kamras said. “We talk a lot about equity, and that word gets thrown around a lot, but it’s about giving kids who need the most, the most.”
Those weeks would be optional for students and teachers, but instructors who teach during those sessions would get $10,000 added to their salaries, however, the measures are still up for discussion.
“There’s no replacing in-person instruction, and I do think we can’t just go back to business as usual. We have to take some bold steps to take care of our students and put them on the right path going forward,” Kamras said.
Kamras believes that by fall all RPS teachers will have been vaccinated. The superintendent also plans to invest more in the virtual technology they’ve been relying on during the pandemic.
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