RPS leaders discuss year’s begin, changes to school resource officers, and George Wythe construction

Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 12:26 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - School leaders from the Richmond City School Board discussed on Monday night the first week of in-person learning, as well as potential changes the district’s school resource officer, or SRO, program. Board members also provided an update to the future construction of George Wythe High School.

According to Richmond Public Schools, the district is facing a shortage of bus drivers and teachers.

At this time, the school district reports 12 bus driver vacancies, which leaders say has contributed to a number of transportation challenges during their first week of school.

The school district also says they’re down 64 teachers, with some of those teachers resigning because of the vaccine mandate.

“All of our classes are being covered. We have a lot of instructional personnel in our schools. People like reading interventionalists and such. They, right now, are leading those classes, or long-term subs, who are getting additional support,” Kamras said. “There’s no class without a teacher.”

In addition to the vacancies, school board leaders addressed families who are choosing not to send their students to school because of COVID-19.

According to agenda documents, the district says they do not have sufficient resources to expand Richmond Virtual Academy to accommodate these families.

Superintendent Kamras also presented his proposed changes to the school resource officer program.

“The proposal on the table is a step towards reimagining what the SRO program is,” Kamras said.

The current plan proposes several modifications to the current SRO program and revisit the future of the program when the current MOU with RPD expires in 2023.

A couple of these recommended modifications for discussion with RPD include “soft” uniforms in schools and SRO’s mentoring a caseload of students each year. Another recommendation includes developing a diversion program to end arrests on school grounds for any non-violent offenses.

“Shifting more of the work from walking the halls to mentoring and student relationships,” Kamras said.

During public comment, a few people came up to the podium to urge school board members to vote against the superintendent’s plan.

“This recommendation irresponsibly places the important work of school counselors and social workers in the hands of individuals employed by the Richmond Police Department who may not be trained in that work,” said Brionna Nomi, a community organizer who spoke on behalf of the Legal Aid Justice Center.

Ultimately, school board leaders decided to defer the vote for this recommendation until next Monday.

Leaders were also slated to discuss updates on the hiring process for the construction of George Wythe High School.

Agenda documents reveal there have been a limited number of applicants for three key positions, so the interviewing process for building construction and procurement positions continues.

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