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Richmond school leaders push back year-round school plan to 2022-23

Posted at 7:23 AM, Mar 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-16 12:29:56-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond Public School leaders voted late Monday night to operate on a traditional calendar for the 2021-22 school year and committed to year-round school for the 2022-23 school year.

School leaders initially said they would no longer take a vote on the year-round school Monday night, but they moved forward with the decision five hours after the start of the meeting.

"I am prepared to set aside my recommendation to move forward with the year-round calendar for next year," said Superintendent of Richmond Public Schools Jason Kamras. "Let's put all of our energy into summer school and a great 21-22 year."

The plan would have added seven additional weeks to next school year for about 5,000 students who are falling behind, but some school board members believe it's too late in the year to make that change.

"This is a change that that really requires considerable thought and planning," said Kenya Gibson, District 3 board member. "And, I think the consensus was that as a district, we just weren't there yet.”

This extra learning time would have been completely optional for these students and teachers, and Kamras said they already had enough teachers committed to making this possible. Teachers who chose to work the extra seven weeks would have received an additional $10,000.

"Those seven weeks of additional instruction have been yanked from our students who need it most," explained District 4 board member, Jonathan Young.

Written comments were read out loud during Monday night's meeting, and one parent stated year-round school would be valuable for the students who have lost time in the classroom with their great teachers.

Another parent expressed support for the proposed calendar, stating it could help close the equity gap in Richmond and support children's literacy struggles.

Recent literacy test results show four out of every ten Richmond elementary students is significantly below the minimum threshold for their grade level.

"Our students have fallen terribly behind, not just as it relates to academics, but also social emotional loss," said Young.

But some other board members, parents and teachers believe the district had not truly gauged the public’s interest, and they worried the change could add unnecessary stress to those already struggling from the pandemic.

“Let's do a traditional calendar for this coming year with a robust summer school and move on," said Kamras. "And the reason I do feel passionate about this commitment is we have a reading crisis that is going to impact our students for the rest of their lives unless we deal with it.”

School board members said they will be conducting research on the year-round school plan over the next year, but they believe making the decision now will give parents time to plan.

The board also voted to begin next school year on Sept. 7.