Richmond School Board members vote to slash dozens of virtual academy positions despite pleas from teachers, parents
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The future of the RPS Richmond Virtual Academy (RVA) is looking rocky as school board members voted to cut over half of the positions this coming fall, citing dips in enrollment and budget issues.
This comes after weeks of push-back from some parents and teachers vouching for students.
RVA will go from 64 to just 30 positions this fall. This is a gut-punch to many of the teachers, coaches, and counselors currently working for the program who will now have to reapply for their positions in order to be considered next school year.
According to information from RVA advocates, the RPS Chief of Talent confirmed that all RVA staff had been handed down RIFs and would be required to reapply for their jobs alongside the general public.
“We know that some students thrive in a virtual setting, and the option for virtual learning should be afforded to all because that is equitable education in action,” 3rd-grade RVA teacher Alexa Janacone said in Monday night’s school board meeting.
Over the last few months, parents, teachers, and staff have started a movement out of concern for students, showing up to school board meetings and urging board members to keep the virtual academy as is.
“The virtual academy has literally been a lifesaver for our family,” one parent, Freddy Siler said in a February meeting.
Siler is especially worried as a parent of a non-verbal son with special needs who, he says, doesn’t understand social distancing.
“He suffers from chronic lung disease, and simple colds have put us in intensive care,” he said. “Any exposure to COVID-19 would be devastating to us as a family.”
A significant change is coming, especially for students in grades K-5.
They will go from having 29 virtual teachers to just six, meaning one teacher per grade rather than four or five.
“With one teacher being in charge of all the planning and teaching for all the students in a grade level, it’s putting the teacher at risk physically and mentally,” RVA Teacher Kim Jones said in the Monday night school board meeting.
Now, virtual students will be picked based on who qualifies for homebound instruction as well as students with medically fragile caregivers.
Meanwhile, Henrico and Chesterfield County Public Schools are proceeding with opening their first stand-alone virtual academies in just a few months.
Superintendent Jason Kamras is expected to send out a survey this week to see just how many families are looking to enroll in the virtual academy in the fall, but back in December, 95% of families replied to a survey conducted by RVA staff claiming they wanted to stay enrolled.
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