RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Some Richmond Public Schools students returned to the classroom today for the first time in more than a year. Other students in grades PreK-5 also participated in the first day of virtual learning.
Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras greeted students this morning at Chimborazo Elementary School for the first time since March 2020. Kamras said it’s been 544 days since in-person classes were held.
“It’s a great morning in Richmond and we’re just thrilled to see all of these faces,” said Kamras.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney also joined Kamras to greet students this morning at Henry L. Marsh Elementary.
Parents and students told 8News, they were both nervous and excited to head back for the first day of school.
Kristina Solomon’s three daughters attend Chimborazo Elementary School. Solomon spent the morning helping to get her children ready for school. She said it “felt normal.”
“It came back just like that. We were ready, eating breakfast and we were just waiting to go,” said Solomon.
Despite the “normal” feeling, some parents like Solomon feel anxious about sending their kids back to school.
“They’re a lot of kids. They haven’t been around these many kids in about a year. But, I’m confident this school year’s going to be good. I’m ready and they’re ready,” said Solomon.
In order to prepare for the reopening of schools, RPS implemented a number of safety measures. The school board approved new start and end times to better reflect guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
This is the new schedule:
- 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. for high school students
- 8:15 a.m. – 3:15 p.m. for middle school students
- 7:45 a.m. – 2:45 p.m. for elementary school students and preschoolers
According to the district, River City Middle School will run on the high school schedule. Cardinal Elementary, Chimborazo Elementary, Elizabeth D. Redd Elementary, George W. Carver Elementary, Ginter Park Elementary and Westover Hills elementary will run on the middle school schedule. Franklin Military Academy will run on the high school schedule.
There’s also a new change for parents who have children in elementary school. Parents and caregivers are not allowed to walk their children to class this year.
Superintendent Kamras said HVAC systems have been upgraded. There are new air filtration systems in all of the school buses and hospital-grade air scrubbers are in all classrooms and common areas. Bathrooms have touchless paper towels and soap dispensers.
Every day, students and staff must complete daily symptom checks.
All staff, students and visitors will be required to wear a face mask inside and outside on RPS property, regardless of vaccination status. Staff is required to provide proof of full COVID-19 vaccination by October 1.
In a ”welcome back” message posted online the night before the first day of school in-person, Superintendent Kamras reflected on his important role. He also thanked RPS personnel and families for their hard work and dedication.
“This job has weighed on me more heavily over the last few weeks than perhaps ever before,” said Kamras. “We will continue to do everything we can to keep all of our kids safe and I say that as Superintendent but also as a dad looking out for all of our kids.”