RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras’ budget proposal calls for an extended year calendar, raise for employees

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RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras at a city briefing on Sepetmber 23, 2020. (Photo: 8News)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras has laid out a new proposed budget for next year and it could mean some big changes for teachers and students.

The proposed budget is for the next fiscal year, 2022, which runs from July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022.

At a school board meeting Tuesday night, Kamras says he anticipates about $9 million in state and city revenue along with another $54.6 million in federal stimulus money for the budget. He proposed to spread out the federal stimulus money over the course of the next three fiscal years.

Kamras proposed the $9 million in recurring funds from the state and city be used for a 2 percent raise for all RPS employees. He proposed another $1 million to cover employee healthcare costs.

The administration is also proposing $8 million from federal stimulus money be allocated for an extended-year calendar for the 2021-2022 academic school year.

Under this proposed plan, schools would open to all students in mid-August and hold two-week intersessions four times a year. During those intersessions, about 5,000 high-need students would receive extra help. The entire month of July would be off, except for those participating in the summer intersession. All federal, state and and local holidays would still be observed. Kamras says more details would be available shortly.

Some school board members offered support for the proposed plan.

“I’m really excited about the year-round school because COVID has just revealed so much,” member Dawn Page said. “It’s really identified more needs so I’m really excited about this.”

“This is a topic that we’ve discussed over the past three years,” Board Chair Cheryl Burke said. “So often, as we well know, our children lose out so much when have summer break vacations. When they come back to school, we’re playing catch up as teachers, especially if they haven’t been in summer school or camps. So, I am all in favor of the year-round school and then some. My concern is that after this CARES money runs out and if we want to continue the year-round schools, where do we go from there?”

“I think the reality is we don’t have the funding three years from now to continue the year-round. But our hope is that over the next couple of years that the economy improves and that between state and local funding, we are able to sustain that,” Kamras replied.

School board member Mariah White voiced concerns of how year-round schooling could affect older students.

“Will that be a year-round program for all schools? Or would be this a pilot year round for elementary and middle?” White asked during Tuesday’s meeting. “I foresee a year round school for high school – there are a lot of different things they have to deal with. Work, taking care of their young students.”

“Our initial planning right now is for the entire school system, but we can bring back a couple of options on that for you to look at, “Kamras responded. “I do think, the more complexity we add to anything, the harder it becomes for all of us to execute. I want to try to keep variations as few a possible while of course meeting the needs of our students. If it means high school needs to be a little bit different, we will certainly put forward something to address that.”

Kamras also adds he would like to see a nurse in every school and make improvements to facilities and technology.

The budget process could take some time to complete. The next month or so will be used for hearings and for leaders to make adjustments.

School leaders hope to approve the budget in February and fully adopt it June.

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