RPS releases initial details of online reopening

Ronald E. Carrington | 8/6/2020, 6 p.m.
When school starts Tuesday, Sept. 8, for Richmond Public Schools students, their online lessons will begin at 9:15 a.m. and ...
Mr. Kamras

When school starts Tuesday, Sept. 8, for Richmond Public Schools students, their online lessons will begin at 9:15 a.m. and end at 4:20 p.m. Students in pre-school through third grade will start earlier — at 9 a.m. and end at 2:45 p.m.

While the younger students will have a majority of live teaching online, older students will have a mix of learning experiences, including live teacher-led, on-screen instruction, independent work on and off their Chromebooks and small group or one-on-one lessons.

That is part of the 51-page plan for RPS’ first semester of the 2020-21 academic year under COVID-19, according to details given to the Richmond School Board at its meeting Monday night.

No school system employees will be put on furlough, according to the plan, a serious concern for office staff, paraprofessionals and support workers who do not have direct responsibility in virtual learning.

Superintendent Jason Kamras walked the board through the five-part plan, called “Reopen With Love,” that will impact about 24,000 students and their families and hundreds of teachers, administrators and school employees as they adjust to virtual learning beginning next month.

The daily school schedule accommodates meal delivery and pick-up via bus stops that will occur between 7 and 9 a.m. for grades K-12. Pre-K students and students who typically require door-to-door transportation will receive meal delivery between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Dr. Tracy Epp, RPS’ chief academic officer, provided the sample schedules and emphasized that each school principal has the flexibility to develop master schedules tailored for their school’s specific academic programs and needs.

Since March when schools across the state were closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, RPS has distributed approximately 16,000 Chromebooks and 6,000 Wi-Fi hotspots to students for their academic use. The school system also has provided more than 1 million meals to students and families across the district.

Mr. Kamras said Monday that all RPS students, regardless of economic need, will have a Chromebook by the end of September. Students with economic need who do not have a personal computer are the priority, he said.

RPS has placed orders for another 8,000 Chromebooks for the new academic year, officials said.

School Board member Dawn Page, 8th District, expressed parents’ and teachers’ concerns about dealing with the youngest students, saying, “We know the short attention span of this group of learners and the need for flexibility and creativity by teachers.”

Approximately 3,800 students with IEPs, or Individualized Education Programs, who typically receive support within the general education classroom setting, will continue during the virtual semester. IEP renewal meetings will begin this month.

For students requiring unique services, RPS will arrange in-person, at-home support using district contractors with Personal Protective Equipment and physical distancing, officials said.

Administration officials said they have tried to be flexible to accommodate special needs for the large number of realities parents and families are living with across the district as school begins.

Sandra Lee, RPS’ chief talent officer, said as of July 31, 90 percent of the teacher vacancies have been filled for the new academic year, with only 38 positions remaining out of 370 vacancies. At the same time last year, only 80 percent of the school district’s vacancies had been filled, she said.