RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond Public Schools continues to face several challenges as the district navigates in-person learning, one of those being meals. A first-grade teacher voiced her frustrations in a powerful letter sent to the district superintendent Jason Kamras.
Arianna Angles, a teacher at Southampton Elementary, did not hold back in the letter urging the district to do better. She said the teachers and custodial staff and doing everything they can to keep kids safe, but it’s not enough. Angles fears things will get worse if the current conditions continue.
“I’m worried all the time for my kids,” Angles told 8News.
It’s just five days into the new school year and Angles describes it as challenging, frustrating and trying, but she hopes for a better tomorrow.
As frustrated as Angles may sound, she said she is not attacking anyone and she’s very passionate about her students, parents and the administration.
“I wrote it out of love. I wrote it because I care,” said Angles. “I love my district. I fell in love with this district and we are all doing the best we can.”
Angles shared that in the midst of the pandemic and virtual school year last year, she opened up her home to nine students during the day as way for them to get schooling. She said she’s very involved – she attends her students’ birthday parties, football games, dance recitals and more. Through it all, she wants change and is encouraging all teachers to stick together and get through these tough times together.
The emailed letter to Kamras reads in part, “I have such a sweet and wonderful class, but I am disgusted at the way teachers are being treated already.”
Angles claims that classrooms aren’t being disinfected as promised, not blaming the custodial staff but the resources available.
“I came into my classroom to decorate and clean and it was a mess,” Angles recalled. “It was awful.”
Angles goes on to say that she and her students are cleaning the classroom, which includes wiping down desks, door handles and more. The first-grade teacher told 8News that teachers across the district are overwhelmed, anxious and still unclear on the district’s COVID-19 protocols.
“We’re still questioning–hey want do we do? We have a student who has COVID. I feel like the response is not consistent with what we were being told.”
Another major complaint is school lunch, which has sounded the alarm from teachers, parents and students. In the letter Angles stated: “My students are eating 1/8 of a sad bologna sandwich and some almost rotten strawberries, I’m mad.”
While interviewing with 8News on Wednesday, Angles said, “I wouldn’t give my animal on chemo that bologna sandwich.”
RPS parents are very concerned and sent pictures of prepackaged meals which included sandwiches. One mother said when her son opened the packaging it was soggy, had a smell and green stuff growing on the bread.
8News interviewed an RPS student during Monday’s school board meeting who said he tried to eat his lunch, but couldn’t.
“When I bit into it, my teeth started to hurt because it was still cold,” the student said.
Angles described the meals in her letter as disgusting and said her students are starving.
“A lot of my anxiety would be eased if my kids were eating better,” said Angles. “My kids are asking for a snack every 20 minutes — they’re hungry.”
Superintendent Kamras stated in a district newsletter that they decided against hot lunches and opted for “grab-and-go” cold meals for COVID-19 safety reasons. He added that it was best for kids not to congregate in line or in a lunchroom, and also admitted that the district doesn’t have enough staff to accommodate hot meals.
Kamras also apologized and said he’s hoping to transition to hot meals soon and is working to make sure snacks are no longer distributed for lunch. Many RPS students rely heavily on getting meals at school.
During Monday’s meeting, the school board also approved a pay increase for food and nutrition employees in hopes of filling the many vacant positions.
Angles Full Letter is below:
I am emailing you as a concerned teacher and also, as an angry teacher. We are 5 days into the school year, and I have such a sweet and wonderful class, but I am disgusted at the way teachers are being treated already. We have been in school 5 days and my classroom has not been disinfected once. My students and I are the ones cleaning the classrooms. We have been in school 5 days and the protocol with dealing with COVID cases are still unclear, ever changing, and causing an extreme amount of anxiety in my teacher friends in several schools. We are being told in multiple schools that if a student tests positive, the rest of the class is not to quarantine as long as we “did our best” to keep them 3 feet apart. We are being reprimanded for questioning the nurses and administrators for not following the protocol they told us was mandatory. I don’t care about the air ventilator, there is grime on my classroom walls that I tried to cover and clean, a cloud of dust lifted from my classroom rug after being told it was going to be cleaned, it is musty and smells dingy, not to mention we are eating lunch in our classrooms and the classroom that I spent hours and my own dollars on is already too much to keep up with just from cleaning it as best I can. The lunches being served are absolutely disgusting, it does not even constitute as a meal to me. My students are starving and hot and anxious. My colleagues are overwhelmed, micromanaged, and doing everything they can to serve their classrooms. We had almost 2 years to get organized, and yet here we are, 5 days into school, and these are the challenges we are already facing. I hope you read this and can feel how much I care for this district. I do. But when chesterfield, mere miles away from us, is serving a fresh banana, hot chicken nuggets, and more while my students are eating 1/8 of a sad bologna sandwich and some almost rotten strawberries, I’m mad. I have half considered packing lunch for my students for them, but due to the schedule change, I already wake up at 4:45 am just to look presentable and make copies before class begins. Please know this is not an attack on you or administration. I know you care. But I am truly frustrated and we are not giving these kids a learning environment conducive to what they need to succeed. It’s just not happening. This is not equity. This is not okay. They’re not safe. They’re not.
Thank you for your time.