Richmond Schools closing additional days in November to address employee mental health concerns

Education

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — In a Richmond Public Schools direct update Wednesday night, Superintendent Jason Kamras said big changes are coming to address mental health concerns.

The division will now be closed the entire first week of November. Kamras is closing schools Monday, November 1 and Wednesday, November 3. The rest of the week is already closed for various holidays and parent/teacher conferences.

“We are already closed on Tuesday, November 2, for Election Day; and Thursday, November 4, for Diwali. In addition, there’s no school on Friday, November 5, due to Parent/Teacher Conferences, which will be virtual this year to save everyone time and prevent COVID-19 transmission,” Kamras wrote.

In his message, Kamras acknowledges the short notice the change may have on families.

“I recognize I’m giving our families very short notice of this calendar change and truly apologize for the inconvenience it will cause,” he wrote. “After very careful consideration, I made this decision because I think it’s essential for our employees’ mental health. And because of their mental health, I worry about significant staff absences on November 1 and 3, which could make it very difficult for us to follow our COVID-19 distancing protocols, putting student and staff health in jeopardy. Again, I sincerely apologize for the short notice and thank you in advance for your understanding.”

Kamras said teachers have expressed they don’t have enough time for planning or a duty-free lunch. He’s asking people to apply as lunch monitors and said they will expedite the process to get them in schools right away.

In addition, he’s authorized principals to make changes, like allowing more flexibility with meetings, so teachers can have sacred planning time.

Kamras is also scaling back on non-essential activities by placing a moratorium on any new division-wide programs and curricula for the rest of the year.

He adds teachers have expressed concern for their students saying they are showing significant trauma from the past 20 months.

“I wish I had a quick fix for this one, but I sadly do not. Many of our students faced multiple pandemics before COVID-19: poverty, racism, gun violence, and more. The last 20 months have only exacerbated these,” the update said.

With the school board’s consent, he intends to reallocate $3 million from federal funding to boost student mental health resources.

Kamras concluded by thanking everyone who shared their comments.

“I’m under no illusion that the changes I’ve shared tonight will eliminate the stress that the RPS Team is feeling,” Kamras said. “But I’m hopeful they will help.”

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