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Richmond school leaders have concerns over reopening classrooms for in-person learning

Posted at 1:37 PM, Feb 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-10 13:37:28-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- As Virginia Governor Ralph Northam pushes to get students back learning in classrooms by mid-March, Richmond Public School (RPS) leaders believe they might not be able to do so by then.

Superintendent Jason Kamras and school board members said Tuesday night, they needed more time to plan before reopening.

They said making air quality modifications, installing plexiglass in classrooms, and creating a COVID-19 dashboard will take time.

Governor Northam called on all school divisions to come up with a plan, no later than March 15, to make it an option for families to send students back to the classroom.

The Richmond School Board said schools cannot safely reopen without concrete plans in place.

Kamras also expressed concerns about the low percentage of vaccinated staff members.

He said only about 30-percent of staff have received their first dose of the vaccine.

One school board member said while these concerns were important, students are struggling with virtual learning.

Keisha Curry, a Richmond mother, has been trying to get used to the new normal, as her daughter learns from home.

“She has adjusted but she prefers going back which I prefer her staying at home," Curry said.

Richmond is the only school system in Central Virginia that had no plans to return students to classrooms during the 2020-21 school year.

Curry said it was too soon for students to return in Richmond.

"Making sure that the ventilation systems are properly working, and you know I really don’t feel all of the schools in the City of Richmond is prepared for that," Curry said.

Northam has also said he wanted to extend school into the summer, for some students, to make up for missed learning at home.

While Curry said it was good for families to have the option for in-person learning, she believed summer class would be a lot to take on.

"That is a bit much and for the teachers and the parents that have to guide their kids for virtual learning, I think that’s a bit much for parents, everybody," Curry said.

Richmond School leaders said they would consider allowing a small number of students with special needs back into the classroom.

The school board is expected to meet again on Thursday to discuss possible plans for students returning.