Richmond students head back to class for new school year

RPS said they have under 100 teacher openings, but said every classroom is covered with help from long-term substitutes
Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 11:27 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 29, 2022 at 1:36 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - On Monday morning, thousands of children across central Virginia went back to class for the start of the school year, including students in Richmond.

In front of J.L. Francis Elementary School in Richmond’s southside, Superintendent Jason Kamras and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney greeted students as they got off the bus to head to class for their first day of school.

Superintendent Jason Kamras greets students as they got off the bus for their first day of...
Superintendent Jason Kamras greets students as they got off the bus for their first day of school.(Source;NBC12 | NBC12)

Throughout the morning, Kamras and Stoney stopped by several classrooms to visit students and teachers.

Mayor Levar Stoney visits classrooms inside J.L. Francis Elementary School for the first day of...
Mayor Levar Stoney visits classrooms inside J.L. Francis Elementary School for the first day of school.(Source;NBC12 | NBC12)

The new school year comes as the school division works to fill its staffing vacancies. During a school board meeting on Aug. 15, school leaders were told there were 144 open teaching positions.

On Monday morning, Kamras said they have zero bus driver vacancies and under 100 open teaching positions. However, Kamras said every classroom is covered with help from long-term substitutes, who he said are on track to become licensed teachers.

“Many of these folks are individuals who worked with our kids last year, so they already know the school, know the kids, so I’m very pleased with the place we are in at this point,” he said.

Kamras also said the school division continues to hire for these positions with help from their incentives to help with their recruitment efforts as the nation experiences a teacher shortage.

As the school division saw their SOL scores decrease, J.L. Francis Elementary School saw dramatic growth in their reading and math scores.

Kecia Ryan, principal of J.L. Francis Elementary School, hopes they can continue to foster this growth using the strategies they’ve been using.

Students fill the classrooms inside J.L. Francis Elementary School for the first day of school.
Students fill the classrooms inside J.L. Francis Elementary School for the first day of school.(Source;NBC12 | NBC12)

“We made things incremental. We talked about how can we grow our students when we looked at the data, how can we grow him three more questions, four more questions, and so we took those bite-size chunks, and I think it didn’t become as overwhelming for our staff so when we saw those incremental growths. We were like we can take them to the next level,” Ryan said.

As students start their assignments, Kamras is optimistic about the school year ahead.

“I think we have really great teachers in place. We have really great instructional materials in place, really fantastic leaders,” Kamras said. “Obviously, we have a ton of work in front of us. I will be the very first person to say I’m not satisfied with where we are, of course, but it has been a very challenging two, three years, and I’m very confident that we are now on the right trajectory, and I’m really excited about what’s to come this year.”

Inside Richmond Public Schools, masks are still required in classrooms unless parents email the school division to opt-out. Masks are optional outside.