The meeting began with the pledge of allegiance and approval of the minutes of the February 7 and 22, 2022 meetings. Then, there was the recognition of the student representative Evelin Medrano who is currently a junior at Open High School. She is currently pursuing an Associate’s Degree at J. Sargeant Reynolds through the Early College Academy and is a member of the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council. She also participates in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority’s #CAP Saturdays — a program that meets with students in Virginia to learn about colleges and universities, and their application processes. Upon graduation, Evelin plans to pursue a degree in Biology and proceed to medical school to become an OB-GYN.
Next, was the public information session which began with Glas Bowshin who is a parent of students in Fox elementary and spoke on the uncertainty of the future of Fox. He urged the superintendent and board to provide an update on the plan for Fox elementary. Following was Amalia Bowshen who commented that she wants kids in a physical space as soon as possible. New students were just getting accustomed to the school environment they had at Fox and separating them could fragment the community. After her, Catherine Ricard was representing the William Fox Elementary PTA. The majority of families surveyed by the PTA agreed that students should return to in person learning as soon as possible because the fire disrupted established routines. They are also supporting a move to a temporary space until Clark Springs becomes ready and urge the board to set up an aftercare program for the families of Fox. Next, Holly Blairton visited the learning center her children attend and she now agrees that “virtual [learning]” is not the absolute best for our students, instead she says, “it’s a bandaid.” K-2nd graders have never had a full year of in person instruction and much of the population rezoned into fox last year during virtual leaving “barely enough time for families to establish important connections.” Additionally, she commented that, “Kindergarteners and first-graders can’t learn necessary skills while on virtual unless they are privileged to have a dedicated adult helping them.” After her, Becka Duval, echoed the sentiments of the Fox elementary family in support of the stop gap option presented by the superintendent. She also commented, “As gas prices soar and meetings run later, there are significant barriers to participation in public comments.” Next, Rose Estes commented that her daughter is attending the First Baptist space and hopes it can be extended to others as she shares the sentiment that a return to in person instruction is best for students. Julia Regatti and Sarah Kendig also spoke on their approval of a return to in person classes for the Fox community. Afterwards, Tisha Irby spoke on her support of the freedom of speech and asked when RPS was going to allow parents into buildings to volunteer. She specifically mentioned that she would like to read to kids as she did before parents were no longer allowed in school buildings. Lastly, Charles Willis spoke to the board about considering meals that would be “culturally conscious” but warned that in considering this, “If we may start talking about culture… if we look at one in particular,… [we may need to start looking at many]….”
The Sheriff of the City of Richmond then gave a presentation on the programs offered and the relationship between the sheriff’s office and RPS community. At the end the sheriff was thanked for commitment to the RPS community.
Dr. Tracy Epp then gave an update for DREAM4RPS. The presentation focussed on early literacy goals and she spoke on the difficulties gathering the data and the obstacles to students who are learning to read and write. Several board members noticed discrepancies in the data between the literacy rates of different races and asked if Dr.Epps would better label the data presented.
Following DREAM4RPS, the board considered administrative business pertaining to a recommendation to move Fox elementary school students to First Baptist Church starting Monday March 21. The current target date for completion of renovations to Clark Springs is April 19. There will also be a survey if community members want to either stay at First Baptist Church or move to Clark Springs. In the fall, there will be a transition to the rebuilt Fox elementary at 2300 Hanover Ave. Board members echoed concerns of parents who do not want to move twice and the superintendent asked the board’s approval for him to move Fox students into First Baptist Church commenting that it is a non-RPS property. The Board then established a procedure to give a public update on fox during every following meeting
The board then received a combined request from Dr.Harris Mohammed and Ms.Gibson requesting $1,800 ($900 each) to support the John Marshall Basketball team’s travel to state championships
Following that, there was a legislative update on the state budget for RPS. One of the biggest things cut from the budget was the governor’s proposed funding for the at-risk add-on program which is the largest equity-based funding stream that distributed more funds to school divisions with high concentrations of poverty.
There will also be an election on April 15th and 16th pertaining to collective bargaining. Certain employees will have the opportunity to vote on the question: “should the REA be certified as the sole representative for the purposes of collective bargaining”
Relevant employee groups to vote are these:
- Instructional assistants
- Licensed personnel
- Safety and parassociates
- School nutrition services
The board also received an update on river city rezoning project
There was also an update on summer programming for 2022. For students in pre-k through 12th grade, summer school will be in person. There will be a particular focus on math and literacy instruction and an effort to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.
Next, the board received an update on chromebook usage and some members expressed concern on the excessive time spent on youtube. Though some content on the website was deemed inappropriate, some members conceded that the majority of teachers see it as a valuable tool for instruction.
Lastly, there was an update on George Wythe Highschool construction. The board expressed a willingness to begin construction but members expressed frustration over city council’s continued efforts to delay the release of funds to RPS. Board members will attend another meeting on March 23rd to receive questions from the city council. This is the third round of questions that the board will receive concerning the size of GWH.