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RPS superintendent shares safety protocols ahead of students returning to class next week

Published: Sep. 1, 2021 at 10:24 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 1, 2021 at 11:26 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Students in Richmond will return to school on Sept. 8, and on Wednesday, school leaders took time to field questions about how to reopen safely. The superintendent has a plan to welcome students back in the age of COVID and the highly contagious delta variant.

VCU Children’s Doctor Matthew Schefft took part in a virtual forum to weigh in on the division’s reopening. He says he’s finding the patients he’s seeing with COVID either didn’t get vaccinated or their parents didn’t. Since only those over the age of 12 are eligible to be vaccinated right now, schools have to discover new ways to make learning safe.

“How does it work for getting to school transportation-wise?” student Imani Adewale asked.

“Masks are required. We also have installed filtration units in our buses and, weather permitting, we will have windows down to encourage good airflow,” Superintendent Jason Kamras replied.

The superintendent admits social distancing may not be ideal on school buses. There are not enough drivers or actual buses to do that well.

“I don’t think anywhere in the region will you find the one student every other seat sort of situation. We’d be running routes around the clock to get kids to school.”

Still, he says schools are being mindful of COVID.

“We’ll have staggered lunches or meals. Some kids may eat in their classroom, while others eat in the cafeteria. There also may be instances where schools use outdoor areas,” Kamras said.

He knows the district won’t be able to eliminate the virus, but it can take steps to reduce the risk. Experts say one group that can help: Parents. They are encouraged to monitor their student’s symptoms and keep them home if there are any.

“As a parent, in previous years, if one of my boys had the sniffles [or] had a cough, I’d give them a little Tylenol and send them off to school because I have to get to work, but this year is not the year for that,” Dr. Schefft said.

Doctors are also pushing vaccines for children who are 12 and over. Right now, that’s the only group eligible to get vaccinated.

“There’s still information that we need to find, but at this point, from what data we have available, it is the appropriate way to protect yourself from the severe form of COVID and the best way to prevent hospitalization,” Dr. Carol Williams said.

Kamras says there are some 2,000 air scrubbers that will be distributed across schools. He says soap and hand sanitizer dispensers in bathrooms will be restocked every hour and a half. Assemblies and large gatherings are off-limits for now.

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