Healthier students are better learners. The School Health Advisory Board (SHAB), comprised of Richmond Public Schools (RPS) parents, students, and teachers, as well as content experts in nutrition, physical activity, mental health, and child wellness will take a holistic view of health that encompasses the many factors that influence students’ ability to be healthy, to learn, and to succeed. In alignment with the division’s strategic plan, the SHAB address issues such as the nutritional content of school meals, the incorporation of trauma-informed and trauma-resilient practices, and the provision of mental health and social support through activities such as conducting outreach to school staff and families, researching evidenced-based practices, reviewing the school wellness policy, and making recommendations to the school board on an annual basis.
Richmond’s SHAB was re-established in November 2019 and has worked on reviewing and recommending updates to the local the school wellness policy. SHAB is rooted in CDC’s Whole Child, Whole School, Whole Community Framework, an evidenced-based strategy for supporting student wellness. The framework calls for greater alignment, integration, and collaboration between health and education to improve each child’s cognitive, physical, social and emotional development.
The 2021 RPS Wellness Policy (Política de Bienestar de RPS) is a result of the SHAB’s work over the last year with support from the Virginia Dept. of Education’s School Nutrition Services and RPS Administration. The policy includes both the state and federal requirements related to food and nutrition, physical education/activity, and mental health - as well as the following three (3) additions:
- Water Access: Ensuring RPS schools provide all students, teachers, and staff with free, easily accessible, and safe drinking water on school grounds, during and after school. Each school building will have at least one drinking fountain or bottle filling station per one hundred (100) people, and there will be opportunities for bottle filling stations to be changed into drinking fountains.
- Recess: Ensuring that all elementary students get 30 minutes of physical activity, and that recess is not being taken away as a punishment. Indoor and outdoor recess options will be provided, and each school will have their own recess plan.
- Tobacco Free Schools: Virginia law requires schools be tobacco free 24/7. Recommend supportive approach and resources to help staff and students who are addicted to tobacco products and addresses violations of tobacco free campus policy with a focus on recovery and reduction of tobacco product addiction and dependence as well as avoiding lost instructional time for students.
To ensure that schools continue to progress in stated wellness goals, RPS is required to conduct a triennial assessment at least once every three years. This assessment provides updates on the progress and implementation of Richmond Public Schools' wellness policy and initiatives, and provides information for future revisions of the policy. The first assessment was conducted in January 2021 and the results can be found here.