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COVID-19 Update - June 4, 2020

  • Dear #RPSStrong Family,
    We're blessed again to have a reflection this evening from another member of the RPS team, Samara Booker, Elementary Math Instructional Specialist. Enormous gratitude to Ms. Booker for sharing this powerful essay.
    Before turning it over to her, I want to publicly thank Mayor Stoney and Council Member Jones for introducing an ordinance at City Council to remove the Richmond-controlled confederate statues on Monument Avenue; and Governor Northam for announcing that the Commonwealth will do the same with the Virginia-controlled statue of Lee. Eliminating these glorifications of injustice and inhumanity is a necessary – though certainly not sufficient – step towards creating a truly inclusive and equitable Richmond. Though I recognize not everyone will agree with my position on this, I urge those who do to make their voices heard.
    With great appreciation,
    Reflection by Samara Booker
    During this time of social unrest in response to the racism that people of color experience on a daily basis, many people are asking what needs to happen next. There are some truths that need to be acknowledged and responsibility that needs to be taken. Our community is suffering, and black students and black educators are not okay.
    We must first acknowledge the pain, frustration, and trauma caused by the violence and injustices perpetrated against the black community. We must understand that the adverse effects of this trauma will continue to surface as it has in the past few days. We must also acknowledge that this trauma is experienced by black students, as well as black educators. We are not only navigating the current pandemic; we are continuously navigating the institutional racism and bias that promotes negative stereotypes and deficit-thinking about black men, black women, and black children.
    There is an African Proverb that says, “The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth”. Our young people are protesting in an effort to be seen, heard, and treated with dignity. They are protesting for change in a society that does not value them – one that has dehumanized them with its patterns of inequality and violence. They are smart, observant, and tired of the empty promises of justice. They are leading the way for change, and they are calling us all to action. Our energy must match theirs.
    As a black educator in Richmond Public Schools, I see them, I hear them, and I understand their anger and dissonance. I have experienced the same injustices as a student and as an educator. Because of these shared experiences, I know that I have a responsibility to prioritize and promote instructional practices that affirm their voices in our classrooms and puts them in a position to be successful after they leave our classrooms.
    But it is not the sole responsibility of black educators to support our students during this movement or to educate those who don’t understand it. It is the collective responsibility of every educator who will eventually receive students of color in their physical or virtual school settings to examine and reflect on their own biases and to create classroom spaces where black students are positively seen, actively engaged, valued for their individuality, challenged to think critically, empowered to question, and celebrated. It is our collective responsibility to value and empower the voices of black educators, as their varying perspectives and experiences will only enrich any conversations on improving the educational experience for black students. But please understand, black educators are deeply affected by the current social unrest. We need space to grieve, process, and breathe.
    Our community is suffering, but we are witnessing our young people in action. This is a teachable moment for all educators who serve students of color. Courageous conversations about racism, implicit and explicit biases, and discrimination need to take place, especially in a district that serves a student population that is approximately 70% Black. Those conversations must center students and educators of color. The conversations may be difficult, but they are a necessary catalyst for change. The cost of stagnancy and procrastination is too high.
    Reading Material to Support Self-Reflection for All Educators:
    • Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools – Monique Harris
    • Culturally Responsive Teaching & The Brain – Zaretta Hammond
    • “Multiplication is for White People”: Raising Expectations for Other People’s Children – Lisa Delpit
    • Courageous Conversations About Race – Glenn Singleton
    • The Trouble with Black Boys – Pedro Noguera
    • Dreamkeepers – Gloria Ladson Billings
    Today's Updates
    • 2020 Scholar Athletes of the Year – See below to learn more about this year's winners: Jayla Henderson (TJ) and Kevin Gayles (Huguenot)!
    • Staff Contracts for 2020-21 – They went out yesterday! Please check your RPS email account.
    • Graduation Ceremonies – See below for the dates and times of both the in-person and virtual ceremonies.
    • RPS SummerCamp@Home – We're thrilled to announce our summer learning plan, which includes academics and a ton of camp-like activities (to be done at home) to get students moving, building, and creating after all the time they've spent on Zoom and Google Classroom over the past couple of months. See below for the details.
    Shout-outs! – Please keep sending them to me at

    • Kudos to the Boushall MS ESL teachers & Boushall MS counselors for assisting families this past Saturday with course registrations at Southwood apartments: Dwayne Parker, Alease Johnson, Adriana Torres De Perez, Elizabeth Forrester, Cierra Sowers, and Meghan Mcpherson.
    • A huge shout out to Bobby Hathaway and the Facilities Team who work tirelessly, with limited resources, to make our buildings safe and comfortable for our staff and students. I know the work often can feel thankless (as there are expectations for basic things that we actually don’t always have) so know how appreciated you are!
    • I'd like to honor the parent of a Redd Elementary rising 4th grader who went to the store and got cases of water to pass out to families waiting in the heat for Chromebooks! Thank you! You exemplified what it means to be a member of a community, sharing goodness in a difficult situation. Praise God there was just enough for everyone who was in line at the time! Thanks to the others who shared kindness and kept positive attitudes! You make Richmond proud.
    • Thank you so much to Susannah Raffenot and family for keeping the gardens at Holton thriving when the students and staff aren't there! We appreciate everything you do for Holton and for the community!
    • I would like to recognize my daughter's teacher, Ms. Stephens at Blackwell Elementary School, for her phenomenal work during this pandemic. Miss Stevens calls me all the time and helps me and my daughter when we have questions about school work. She has shown me that her passion is sincere...She is amazing and I wanted to share this wonderful experience with you.
    RPS Scholar Athletes of the Year – Congratulations to Jayla Henderson and Kevin Gayles, our 2020 Scholar Athletes of the Year! We couldn't be prouder of you!
    As captain of the Thomas Jefferson HS Girls Basketball Team, Jayla helped lead the Lady Vikings to their first regional title in the school’s history. She's a three-year letter winner in basketball and was selected to the All Region 2 Second Team. Jayla is also the captain of the volleyball team and a four-year letter winner in the sport. In addition, she's the 2020 Salutatorian for TJ and active in her community. In the fall, she'll be attending William & Mary!
    As captain of the Huguenot HS Varsity Football Team, Kevin excelled on both offense and defense. In his senior season, he was selected to the All Region 4 Second Team, and chosen to play in the VHSCA All-Star Game, where he earned the 2019 Best Offensive Player Award. In 2018, he was selected to the All Region 4 First Team as well as the All Metro Team. He's also an accomplished artist, with work displayed in a number of local exhibitions. Kevin will attend Norfolk State University in the fall on a full athletic scholarship!
    Graduation  – As shared previously, we’ll be holding both in-person and virtual graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2020!
    For the in-person ceremonies, graduates will be able to experience the ”walk across the stage” in their cap and gown, though the exact location of the ceremony will vary at each school. Given social distancing requirements, graduates will only be able to bring three family members and will have a specific time slot on their school’s assigned date. In addition, all attendees will be required to wear face coverings.
    For the virtual ceremonies, we’re working with a local production company to create a video that will include all the regular graduation speeches and a slide for each senior, along with the ability for families to post congratulatory comments while the ceremonies are broadcast.
    See below for the dates and times of both the in-person and virtual ceremonies. For additional school-specific information, please contact your counselor.
    In-Person Ceremony Schedule

    Tuesday, June 23
    • Amelia Street, 12:00 pm
    • Armstrong High School, 8:00 am
    • John Marshall High School, 11:00 am
    • Richmond Community High School, 8:00 am
    Thursday, June 25
    • Franklin Military Academy, 9:00 am
    • Huguenot High School, 9:00 am
    • Thomas Jefferson High School, 9:00 am
    Friday, June 26
    • George Wythe High School, 8:00 am
    • Open High School, 9:00 am
    • Richmond Career Education & Employment Academy, 12:00 pm


    Note: The times listed above are the START times for the ceremonies. Each graduate will receive a specific time-slot, as indicated by their high school.

    Virtual Ceremony Schedule

    Monday, June 22
    • Amelia Street, 12:00 pm
    • Armstrong High School, 1:00 pm
    • Richmond Community High School, 3:00 pm
    • George Wythe High School, 5:00 pm
    • John Marshall High School, 7:00 pm
    Wednesday, June 24
    • Richmond Career Education & Employment Academy, 12:00 pm
    • Franklin Military Academy, 1:00 pm
    • Huguenot High School, 3:00 pm
    • Thomas Jefferson High School, 5:00 pm
    • Open High School, 7:00 pm


    Note: Once the virtual ceremonies are broadcast, they’ll be available for viewing online at any time.
    RPS SummerCamp@Home  – Preschool through eighth grade students will have the opportunity to participate in a virtual camp experience this summer that includes both academics and a broad array of enrichment activities. We're calling it RPS SummerCamp@Home. Big thanks to our partners on this: YMCA of Greater RichmondBellXcel, and NextUp
    • Who: All RPS PreK-8 students
    • When: June 29 – July 31 
    • Where: Virtually
    • Cost: Free!
    Each week will have a theme:
    • Week 1: “RPS Strong” – Developing healthy minds and healthy bodies!
    • Week 2: “RPS Calm” – Learning mindfulness and meditation practices!
    • Week 3: “RPS Active” – Getting up and moving!
    • Week 4: “RPS Loud” – Making music and dancing!
    • Week 5: “RPS Creative” – Unleashing creativity! 
    Here are a few examples of the virtual enrichment courses that students will have access to:
    • Contemporary Dance
    • Culinary Explorations
    • Latin Salsa & Hip Hop
    • Mindfulness & Art
    • Outdoor Explorers
    • So You Want to Win the Fortnite World Cup?
    • TECHNOLOchicas: Learn Basic Coding
    • Video & Filmmaking
    • Yoga Exploration
    To register for RPS SummerCamp@Home, just click here!
    Please note that high school students and middle school students taking high school courses will have the opportunity this summer to complete their spring 2020 Edgenuity modules and take virtual credit recovery courses. We'll have more information about this very soon.
    PD Sessions for Teachers  – We have a couple of exciting professional development opportunities to share. First, during the week of June 8, the Department of Curriculum and Instruction will be offering introductory sessions on Virtual Teaching, Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), and more. Be on the lookout for more information directly from the C&I team.
    Second, VCU’s Summer Learning Academy is being offered to educators at a 50% discount given the financial impact of COVID-19 and the program's shift to an online format. Please use this registration form to sign up.
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  • - Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and help young children do the same. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

    - Wash your hands especially after coughing and sneezing, before and after caring for an ill person, and before preparing foods and before eating

    - Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and then throw the tissue in the trash.

    - Avoid touching your eyesnose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

    - Avoid close contact (such as kissing, sharing cups, or sharing eating utensils) with people who are sick

    - Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.

    - Stay home when you are sick, except when you need to get medical care.