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City school superintendent 'not optimistic' about in-person learning: 'Richmond is not Henrico and it is not Chesterfield'

Posted at 2:07 PM, Oct 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-28 18:39:34-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras does not think students will return to classrooms when school resumes in 2021 following Winter Break.

"With increasing infection rates and the direction things seem to be heading, not just locally, but nationally, I am not optimistic, at this point, that we would be able to come back in person," Kamras said at a press conference with other city leaders about Richmond's response to COVID-19. "We will continue to track the data, seek input from our families, and from our teachers. But, the number one priority is the health and safety of our students, our staff, and our families. So we'll be watching this very, very closely."

Richmond Health Director Dr. Danny Avula said the downward trend Richmond had experienced in terms of positive COVID-19 tests had turned around.

"When you zoom back, what you see is that we've now, for over three weeks, had a consistent increase in case rates, in hospitalizations, and in percent positivity here in the city," he said. "We're seeing the pandemic come raging back through Europe, through the Midwest, we had the highest total case count in the country last week."

He urged people to "act differently" in an effort to slow the spread and encouraged people to limit gatherings, to practice social distancing, and to wear masks.

Kamras' statement comes the same week that both Chesterfield and Henrico Schools announced plans to have middle and high school students return to classrooms in November and February respectively.

Younger students in the counties return earlier or, in many cases, have already returned to in-person learning.

"Richmond is not Henrico and it is not Chesterfield," Kamras said. "We are very different places."

Kamras said the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted his students and staff differently than in neighboring counties.

"To be blunt, it has been much more taxing on our community," he said. "People know someone who has been sick or died. And that is not always the case in other places. While I appreciate that there are many folks who would like all kids to come back, myself included, I would love to have my own children back in person, but I will continue to uphold the health and safety of our students, families, and staff as our number one responsibility."

Discussions about next semester's learning plans will begin at Monday's School Board meeting, he said, with a goal to have a decision made before Winter Break.