Richmond School Board approves plan for 800 student in-person return

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Richmond School Board voted to approve Superintendent Jason Kamras’ spring re-opening proposal. With his proposal in place, around 800 Richmond Public Schools students will resume in-person learning on April 12.

Now that the School Board has voted, 300 seats will open up for families to choose in-person learning for elementary-level exceptional education and English learner students with the “most significant needs.”

Students who attend any of Richmond’s five facilitated learning centers will have the opportunity to return in-person as well. RPS plans to expand center enrollment and welcome up to 500 students for face-to-face learning at these facilities.

Returning in-person will be optional for students meeting the criteria. Families with exceptional education or English learner students will be contacted individually to make their decisions for the spring. The registration process for facilitated learning centers will not change.

According to the proposal presentation, Kamras introduced this option in order to reach students with the greatest needs and to avoid creating new inequities. His proposal also explains that he wanted to protect the relationships students and teachers have built and keep his promise to teachers that they would not be told to return in-person this year.

The following school board members voted in favor of the plan: Liz Doerr, Kenya Gibson, Stephanie Rizzi, Cheryl Burke, Dawn Page and Nicole Jones.

Mariah White and Jonathan Young voted against the proposal and Shonda Harris-Muhammed abstained from voting.

Dr. Harris-Muhammed supported parts of Kamras’ proposal but was concerned that it did not consider high school seniors who were in jeopardy of graduating. “It sends a message to me that we are not prioritizing the seniors who need that additional support so they can graduate in June or even August,” she said.

Kamras responded by saying this year’s high school seniors are in a “better position” than they have been in several years. “I do think we are providing that support through many different avenues,” Kamras said.

Gibson voted in favor of Kamras’ plan but echoed other board members’ concerns about the limited amount of detail provided. “We should be further along and I’m eager to get more detail from the administration on plans as they come more concrete,” Gibson said.

Before the board voted on Kamras’ re-opening plan, Young proposed a new plan with the support of Doerr and Harris-Muhammed. Young’s plan involved an in-person return of Kamras’ 800 students, plus some pre-K, K-2 students and high school seniors. 

Board members including Page and Jones said they received Young’s plan at 5:03 p.m. Monday and did not have enough time to review it. Young’s proposal failed to pass.

White then attempted to delay the vote on Kamras’ proposal to a later date, saying the school board was not provided with enough detail. Kamras urged the school board to take action Monday night.

The superintendent said if the vote was delayed, students would not return for in-person learning until late April or early May. White’s motion to delay the decision failed to pass.

The conversation around the proposed year-round school for the 2021-22 school year was another topic discussed at Monday’s meeting. Kamras said he looks forward to upcoming town halls on the plan and hopes the school board can come to a decision at its next meeting on March 15.

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