Richmond schools work to resolve reopening issues

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Just days after the start of the 2021-22 school year, officials at Richmond Public Schools (RPS) are addressing several issues facing the school division.

The school board met on Monday evening to consider a busy agenda, which included a presentation from Superintendent Jason Kamras on plans to reopen the division. The superintendent said the biggest threat to in-person education is community transmission of COVID-19, as opposed to the virus spreading in the classroom, especially with the mitigation strategies put in place by the school division.

While RPS has a mandate to vaccinate all staff and other adults working in school buildings, along with a 100% mask-wearing policy, there are other areas the division is in. difficulty.

According to Kamras, some students arrive at school wearing adult-sized masks. School officials said PPE was provided to families at the start of the school year, but pediatric-sized masks should continue to be distributed for students who are not wearing the appropriate face covering for their arrival at school. Kamras also noted that some families did not routinely wear masks on school grounds.

The superintendent further explained that when there are multiple positive cases of COVID-19 in a school, nurses have found it difficult to perform both normal duties and contract finding duties at the same time. This is why RPS is reportedly exploring additional contract nursing support.

Several community members also spoke at Monday night’s meeting about issues with school meals during this school year. In addition to the 64 vacant teaching positions in the school division, 15 of which are due to the mandate to vaccinate Richmond public schools, according to Kamras, there are 117 vacant foodservice positions out of the 278 foodservice workers that the division generally employs.

The Superintendent’s Fall 2021 Reopening Update for the School Board noted that the hiring of food service workers has been downgraded because the school division is currently using a prepackaged kiosk system for its meals as a strategy for food service workers. additional mitigation against COVID-19. It would require less staff. But the students notice the difference.

“Let’s just say it was hot. It’s still not enough, ”said 8th grader Christopher Erby. “But you have to at least try to eat it, and then when I bit into it my tooth started to hurt because it was so cold.”

Christopher’s testimony was consistent with what other members of the community shared during the public comment period at Monday night’s meeting. Parents and local residents said their children were not getting the right nutrition or calorie intake from these prepackaged meals, which Kamras said would be reviewed.

“I would like to thank the speakers who have spoken this evening. Obviously, something went wrong the first few days of school with some of the meals that were handed out, ”Kamras said. “I hesitate to even call them meals, given some of the testimony we’ve heard this evening. It is dealt with and rectified. “

Despite concerns expressed at the meeting, Christopher’s mother Tisha Erby told 8News that she was happy to be reunited with her children at RPS for in-person instruction this year.

“I’m glad they’re back and I’m glad they’re safe,” she said. “I’m glad they’re having fun.”

Erby said she sends her kids to school with hand sanitizer and face masks and they know how to use both correctly so she never gets the dreaded phone call from one of her children became infected with COVID-19.

“I’m just trying to stay positive,” Erby said. “When I get this phone call, I get this phone call. For now, I’m just telling myself to get on with my day and tell them to use their hand sanitizer. They hung it on their pants, hung it on their shirts.

Richmond public school officials announced Monday they are considering weekly individualized PCR testing for COVID-19 for people with medical or religious exemptions from the division’s adult immunization mandate, along with testing options for the student body to detect positive cases early and minimize the spread of the virus.

“The most dangerous place, I would say, from a COVID standpoint, for children right now is in the community,” Kamras said. “The safest place for them is actually inside a Richmond public school, given all the mitigation strategies we have. “

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