RPS parent keeps child at home over concerns with COVID-19

Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 5:38 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A parent from Richmond Public Schools is hoping more learning options open up for his child as he worries about the COVID-19 case numbers in the community.

Gary Llama, who has an autoimmune disorder, is a father to a student in third grade.

Over the summer, Llama opted for his child to attend school in person.

“The numbers were down. Things looked pretty good,” he said.

As the start of the school year approached, Llama saw a rise in COVID-19 cases and wanted his child to go virtual.

“I contacted some people in RPS and said, ‘hey, what are the options right now,’” he said. “Apparently, the virtual thing - there were a lot of other people in the same position as me. The virtual thing, they had grown a waiting list.”

A spokesperson for Richmond Public Schools says 1,400 students in PreK through 12th grade are on the waiting list for the Richmond Virtual Academy.

Llama’s child is currently on the waitlist for the Richmond Virtual Academy, but it’s leaving him with limited options as he keeps his child home over concerns with COVID-19.

“Our only option, really, was either to go in school or homeschool,” he said. “We’re kind of just sitting here not really knowing or having a plan of what to do, but realizing as this pandemic has gotten worse, maybe it isn’t safe for most of the kids that are there to be there.”

Llama is not the only parent keeping their child home in light of the virus.

Richmond Public Schools says several hundred families are choosing to keep their children home as a result of COVID-19.

These details were presented to the Richmond City School Board on Monday night.

During this presentation, Superintendent Jason Kamras said they do not have sufficient resources to expand Richmond Virtual Academy to accommodate these families.

He also reassured parents that their children would be safe returning to school for in-person learning.

“I would venture to say the safest place for children in the City of Richmond right now is inside a Richmond public school,” Kamras said during Monday night’s meeting. “It’s outside of RPS where the transmission is 15 percent or higher.”

A spokesperson for Richmond Public Schools says they are looking for solutions to accommodate the students on the waitlist, but urge parents the best solution is to send their child back to school.

However, Llama hopes there will be more options on the table for families in the district.

“We’re kind of at the mercy of whatever RPS can find available to make happen,” he said.

Richmond school leaders also report vacancies for their school bus drivers and teachers.

At the moment, RPS says they’re short 12 bus drivers and 64 teachers.

On Monday, Kamras said some of those teacher vacancies happened because of the district’s vaccine mandate.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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