RPS to launch 200-day school year in July

Holly Rodriguez | 3/9/2023, 6 p.m.
Fairfield Court Elementary School is the first Richmond Public School that will participate in the district’s 200-day school year pilot ...
Mr. Kamras

Fairfield Court Elementary School is the first Richmond Public School that will participate in the district’s 200-day school year pilot program, beginning July 24.

The School Board voted March 6 to launch the program. Funded by one-time dollars received as part of the American Rescue Plan, participation in the program is contingent upon a majority of teachers, staff and families being onboard.

Fairfield received a 96 percent approval.

Three other elementary schools, Cardinal, Overby-Sheppard and Westover Hills, have been approved by the administration to participate as well. Cardinal and Overby- Sheppard are still counting votes of families willing to participate. At Westover Hills, with only 37 percent willing to participate, the pilot program will not proceed there.

Mr. Kamras said he will have the final vote count for Cardinal and Overby-Sheppard at the next School Board meeting.

With the exception of the start date, students at schools participating in the 200-day school year will have the same scheduled holidays as their traditional 180-day peers, and will share the same last day of school.

In his presentation to the School Board at the Feb. 20 meeting, Mr. Kamras pointed to a study published in 2010 by the American Education Research Association that said “extending school time can be an effective way to support student learning.” The data is based on research conducted from 1985 to 2009. In addition, RPS students, like many public and private school students across the country, are struggling to recover from learning loss experience during the COVID-19 pandemic and are not performing on grade level. Mr. Kamras has previously said this program is a step in the direction of improving student performance.

Mr. Kamras also has repeatedly said four additional weeks of instruction may help students better retain the material they learn during the school year. For decades, research has shown students experience learning loss during summer break, known as the “summer slide.” This research identifies younger children and low-income students who are at highest risk of learning loss over the summer.

Families currently enrolled at an “RPS200” school who do not want to par- ticipate in the pilot can transfer their student out of the school and will be prioritized for placement at other schools, as long as space exists. Families can also opt their students into one of the pilot schools’ programs depending on availability. However, families opting in or opting out of these schools will be required to provide their own transportation for their RPS students.

Principals and assistant principals will receive $15,000 bonuses; teachers and staff with contracts will move to 11-month contracts and receive a bonus of $10,000 every year of the pilot. And all staff par- ticipating in the program “will receive an additional $5,000 bonus if their school meets student outcome goals established at the beginning of the year and approved by the Superintendent.”

RPS is launching its program just as Chesterfield County Public Schools may end a similar program at two elementary schools: Bellwood Elementary and Falling Creek Elementary.