Richmond Schools Chief Proposes Year-Round School

by James C. Sherlock

Richmond Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras has proposed that city schools operate year-round next year to help students impacted by learning losses caused by disruptive COVID-related schooling changes.

Unless something changes, Richmond public schools will remain closed to in-person instruction for the rest of the current school year.

From an excellent piece written by Alan Rodriguez for NPR  

Richmond Superintendent Jason Kamras is proposing that city schools operate year-round next year to help students impacted by virtual learning and the pandemic.

Kamras’s vision is for the 2021-2022 school year to begin in person in August, and end in late June. It would include four two-week breaks, or “intersessions,” every nine weeks. About 5,000 “high-need students” would receive additional instruction during these intersessions, adding up to 40 extra school days.

“Ensuring that the students who need it most get 40 additional days is a rather significant shift, and I think an incredible investment to support our young people,” Kamras said when he first proposed the extended calendar during a January school board meeting.

The adjusted calendar is part of Kamras’s budget proposal. It would require $8 million to fund, which he says will be covered in full by federal coronavirus relief money. The school board has yet to approve the proposed budget and is expected to discuss the year-round calendar Tuesday.

This proposal will be discussed at a virtual school board meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 16 at 6:00 PM live streamed on the RPS Facebook page.

Ominously, the article indicates that issues of equity may arise. The intersession programs may be offered only to elementary school students. And that may raise concerns among elementary school teachers who will be asked to do more than other teachers.

I recommended year-round schooling here on December 18. The Governor cautiously endorsed it in a news conference on Jan. 6 when NPR wrote:

“Northam also noted the state may seek additional remedies to supplement instructional time. He said both year-round school and additional school days are on the table.”

Mayor Stoney weighed in on Feb. 3 in general favor of the idea. But the school board sounds shaky, perhaps with good reason. 

In addition to calendar transition issues that will need to be dealt with, in a school system in which an RPS survey showed that 80% of teachers preferred to stay virtual for the rest of this year, dealing with the teachers on year-round schooling and the additional intersession proposal will constitute a major obstacle even if the School Board endorses in on Tuesday. There also will be parents who feel strongly on both sides of this proposal.

But I congratulate the Superintendent for trying  And I hope he succeeds for the sake of the kids. The adults in this conversation need to have that same motivation.