RICHMOND, Va. -- Monday is a big day for some families in Richmond as roughly 800 students are headed back to school classrooms after more than a year of virtual learning.
The 300 high-need students and 500 students needing to learn English are mostly elementary-age kids, but Richmond School Board Member Jonathan Young said there are some high school students with IEPs who have been given the option to return.
Young also noted while these students will finally be in a more traditional classroom setting today, some have been able to go facilitated learning centers -- like the YMCA -- during this past year of virtual learning.
“There's no way to replace the magic that happens in a real world classroom when a student has an opportunity to interface with one of our extraordinary teachers," said Young, "And so that's why it's so important that we do resume in-person instruction, and why we're all excited to do that."
Young said getting some students back inside the classroom is important because more than half of the district’s elementary school students are on a trajectory to be reading below their current grade level.
"Our students have have experienced a disproportionate loss relevant to socioemotional experiences and welfare, and then it relates to learning, we know that our students have experienced real loss," Young explained.
While the past year has been tough for students, school leaders believe it’s also been hard on teachers -- who have had to connect with their students through devices.
"I can tell you, as an instructor myself, it's been extraordinarily difficult to be away from from students," said Young. "So our teachers are, they're excited to see our students, and they understand. In fact, they pursue the profession because they want to give every everything for the benefit of our young persons."
Before Monday, Richmond, Sussex and Portsmouth were the only three districts left in the state that were fully remote.
More students will have the opportunity to get back in front of a teacher face-to-face for summer school, and RPS plans to return to in-person learning in the fall.
The school board will discuss a new proposed calendar Monday night for the 2021-2022 school year, which would give all students the option to stay virtual or return to face-to-face learning September 8.