RPS superintendent hopeful decision on year-round school will be made on March 15

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jason Kamras is hopeful that the Richmond School Board will come to a decision on year-round school for the 2021-2022 year in the next couple of weeks.

The proposed calendar change has been a big point of discussion among the community and received lots of public comment at Monday’s virtual school board meeting.

The proposed year-round calendar would begin this summer. It would include seven weeks of extra instruction spread across the year for 5,000 students with the highest needs.

The plan still includes a summer break. However, the break would be five-weeks long for those students taking part in the extra instruction and eight-weeks long for all other students.

A survey was sent to families and staff to gauge comfortability with the calendar.

On Monday, Kamras said about 50 percent of staff and about 2,000 families had responded as of Feb. 26.

According to the results, 43 percent of families said they are comfortable or very comfortable with the calendar. 36 percent said they are uncomfortable or very uncomfortable.

“I have never said that a majority of families have articulated that they’re comfortable or very comfortable. I use the word ‘plurality’ because that is what this data shows. More families in the survey indicated a comfort level than did not,” Kamras told the school board.

However, some parents expressed concerns about the survey’s validity. “People can take it as many times as they please,” one parent wrote as part of their public comment.

Others said 2,000 families is not a fair representation of the school system’s more than 28,000 students. Kamras said families of color are under-represented in the survey and RPS will continue outreach efforts to gain more responses.

As the conversation continues, teacher Heather Crone submitted a public comment saying the descision is being rushed. “Please focus on making sure our buildings are safe for our return in September instead of trying to return for a jump start session in July,” Crone said.

However, Parent Lauren Methena, who is leaning toward supporting the year-round calendar, thinks the extra instruction time could help RPS succeed.

“I feel like having that flexibility to move throughout the entire calendar year versus just a small portion of it could lead to bigger and better benefits,” Methena told 8News.

She does not want other parents to overthink the decision. “I think if anything from this year, our children have proven how resilient they are and how much they can handle as far as change goes,” said Methena.

Kamras said the current survey data shows the school district needs to continue collecting more feedback.

He hopes to organize some town hall sessions over the next couple of weeks and told the school board he is hopeful they will come to a decision at their meeting on March 15.

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