RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Five Richmond Public Schools will become child care facilities during the fall virtual semester. 

In a virtual meeting Monday night, the school board approved Superintendent Jason Kamras’ recommendation to open five RPS buildings for emergency child care.

The school system is moving forward with a fully virtual semester, which has presented challenges for some parents. Public comment was read at the meeting, like this letter from a single mother who does not have the option of working from home. “I can’t imagine paying what little bit of hourly wage I am making for child care,” the letter read.

Superintendent Kamras presented the board with results from a survey conducted by the city. Out of 1300 responses, about 800 RPS parents said they do not have child care plans. “I think it is clear that there are many families in Richmond this evening who are facing very difficult circumstance this fall,” said Kamras.

RPS recommended that Martin Luther King Middle, Holton Elementary, Huguenot High, Miles Jones Elementary and Blackwell Elementary open to about 100 students each for child care.

The City of Richmond is taking the lead on the emergency child care program. The child care will not be provided by RPS employees, but instead by churches, non-profits or other local organizations that can meet certain health and safety requirements.

Mayor Levar Stoney said $3 million in CARES Act funding has been set aside, which will make the service free to some families who qualify.

The City said two-thirds of the open spots will be made available for free for students who qualify for SNAP, TANF, Medicaid and other similar programs.

One parent 8News spoke with is worried her children will not get selected, as there are 500 open spots total and she is not an essential worker who will get first priority. 

“What we’re proposing is that essential workers would be prioritized but it would not be exclusively for essential workers,” Kamras said.

In the end, six members approved the schools opening for child care. “Our families are hurting and if we delay this decision, this will have a huge impact on our families who are greatly in need,” school board member Dawn Page said. 

Board Members Scott Barlow and Kenya Gibson abstained from voting, saying there was not enough information. 

“I’m incredibly disappointed that we are in a position where we’re essentially voting on something with very little information. the information that I’m requesting is not excessive by any means,” Gibson said.

Kamras said the child care will likely take a couple more weeks to get up and running. The first day of school is Tuesday, Sept. 8.

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