RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond Public Schools announced that they would be closed for an additional two days the first week of November. Due to other scheduled closed days, the school system will be closed for a week.
RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras shared the following statement in an email to families on Wednesday night:
Finally, in the interest of our employees' mental health, I've also made the decision – after conferring with School Board Chair Burke, my Parent Advisory Council, all of our principals, and dozens of teachers – to close RPS on Monday, November 1, and Wednesday, November 3.
We are already closed on Tuesday, November 2, for Election Day; and Thursday, November 4, for Diwali.
In addition, there's no school on Friday, November 5, due to Parent/Teacher Conferences, which will be virtual this year to save everyone time and prevent COVID-19 transmission.
I recognize I'm giving our families very short notice of this calendar change and truly apologize for the inconvenience it will cause.
After very careful consideration, I made this decision because I think it's essential for our employees' mental health.
And because of their mental health, I worry about significant staff absences on November 1 and 3, which could make it very difficult for us to follow our COVID-19 distancing protocols, putting student and staff health in jeopardy.
Again, I sincerely apologize for the short notice and thank you in advance for your understanding.
I'm under no illusion that the changes I've shared tonight will eliminate the stress that the RPS Team is feeling. But I'm hopeful they will help.
To everyone who has called, emailed, texted, shared at public comment, or grabbed me in the hallway to share feedback and potential solutions, thank you. I'm eternally grateful for your engagement.
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Teachers, parents and others took to social media to react to the news Wednesday.
In a post on the 'Support Richmond Public Schools' Facebook page, one teacher wrote, "I'm in tears of relief, happiness, and appreciation.”
However, others who spoke with CBS 6 Wednesday evening did not approve of the decision.
RPS parent Scott Garnett believed the superintendent's decision was another instance where the school system was being reactive rather than proactive.
"I think the part that bothers me the most is the last minute announcement that was made," said Garnett. "I'm a small business owner and my wife is a small business owner and we can work around these issues. But for a single parent trying to juggle this, it just doesn't make any sense."
Vice Chair of the school board, Jonathan Young, also said it was a decision he could not support.
"This sudden unexpected announcement is, is really a most unfortunate reminder of a year and a half that many of us would like to forget," said Young.
He believed the short notice and decision to take more time away from the classroom was not only damaging for students and families but not a fix for employees.
He added that he supported prioritizing teacher's mental health, but believed there were better ways to do it — like more autonomy and less micromanaging.
"I think that we are asking more of our teachers than we ever have. And to be blunt, it's unfair," said Young. "The teachers are willing to do it. But darn it, give them the respect and treat them like the professionals they are to then go and do it. And stop second guessing how they do their job every minute of the day."