• Reopen With Love

    2020 Virtual Reopening Plan

    December 7, 2020 Update - RPS has officially announced that we will remain completely virtual for the second semester beginning on February 8, 2021. Further updates will be shared in RPS Direct and within this section of our website.

    This section of our website will be updated regularly with information and resources you may need as RPS continues to conduct the 2020-2021 school year virtually and we encourage you to visit frequently.

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RPS Direct Update - February 25, 2021

  • Dear #RPSStrong Family,
     
    I'm thrilled to share that we have a new Chief Operating Officer joining RPS on March 1! Alana Gonzalez has spent her entire career helping government agencies work more efficiently and more equitably.
     
    She's coming to us from New York, where she served as Executive Director of Community Reconstruction and Infrastructure for the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery. In this role, she led over 300 recovery and resiliency projects for NY communities affected by Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene, and Hurricane Lee. 
     
    Ms. Gonzalez also held various roles, including Chief of Staff to the General Manager, at the New York City Housing Authority, which provides affordable housing to more than 400,000 low- to moderate-income New Yorkers.
     
    She earned her Bachelor’s in Sociology from the State University of New York at Albany and holds a Master’s in Public Administration from Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy.
     
    Please join me in welcoming Ms. Gonzalez to the RPS family!
     
    With great appreciation,
     
    Jason
     
     
    Shout-outs! – Please keep sending them to me at jkamras@rvaschools.net. Thank you! 
    • I would like to express gratitude to the Oak Grove-Bellemeade Elementary office staff: Ms. Wilkins, Ms. Keys, Ms. Hernandez-Arrieta and Ms. Lawson for helping to send LIEP progress reports to families (in addition to the hundreds of other reports mailed home). Thank you for helping us provide yet another point of contact and mode of communication with our EL families.
    • My husband and I would like to send a shout out to Ms. Madeline Grygiel at Mary Munford Elementary School. She is a first year teacher, but you would never know it by how well she understands her content and her students, especially the needs of our own child. Ms. Grygiel has gone above and beyond to ensure that our son gets what he needs to be successful even before he was found eligible. This is the first year my son has ever loved going to school each day. He absolutely adores Ms. Grygiel. Thank you for igniting the passion for education that our son has missed all these years! We are forever grateful!
    • I want to send the biggest shout-out possible to the Armstrong Guidance Department for their dedication and tireless efforts to guide our students to graduation and beyond! Navigating scheduling as well as credit and graduation requirements this past year has been a non-stop roller coaster with what feels like new twists and turns everyday. But they have handled it all with grace and never wavered in their commitment to helping our students succeed. They have my utmost admiration and respect, on top of just being an all-around wonderful group of people to work with! "The Strong" will emerge from this pandemic even stronger because of them!
    • I would like to give a shout out to Ryan Bennett our compliance coordinator at John B. Cary Elementary. I want to acknowledge the leadership and support for students and families that Mr. Bennett has demonstrated. He is doing a wonderful job as our special education leader. He has also stepped up to lead programs for our students including the chess club and carrying the weight of creating our Black History program.
    • I have the opportunity to visit and observe various school teams in action. I was a part of a J.L. Francis meeting today and came away thoroughly impressed with the leadership (Cordell Watkins - assistant principal) and his team (Susan Wood, Lisa Mullins-Jennings, Ashley Akrie, and Chris Parsons!) in terms of their discussion regarding a particular student. There was a deep dive into the academic challenges the student currently experiences and all of it was done in a highly respectful, cohesive, and data-driven manner. And the student's teachers, Ms. Mayzie Zechini and Ms. Darlene Chambers, were so thoughtful, insightful and loving in their presentation of the student - they truly care! I just wanted to say - fabulous job, J.L. Francis team!
    • Kudos to Mrs. Farrell and Mrs. Evans at Boushall MS! In preparation for our virtual sixth grade first semester awards program, they delivered the cutest basket to some of our wonderful scholars and took pictures to add to the presentation. Thanks for being caring, committed, and creative! #EagleExcellence
    • I want to shout out to the admin team at River City Middle School! They did an amazing job organizing a teacher appreciation drive-by on Wednesday. It made us feel so special and it was a delight to see their smiling (under masks!) faces in real life. Thank you all for our treats! 
     
     
    2021-22 Calendar Proposal – I want to remind everyone to complete our feedback surveys. Here's the parent/caregiver survey and the teacher/staff survey. Some of the key features of the proposed calendar:
    • fully in-person opening, along with a virtual pathway for families who prefer that option
    • 7 weeks of extra instruction to support our 5,000 highest-need students: 3 weeks in July/August right before school (“Jump Start”), 2 weeks in November (“Fall Boost”), and 2 weeks in March (“Spring Boost”)
    • More than $10,000 in additional compensation for teachers who choose to work the additional weeks (those weeks would be time off for teachers who choose not to work them)
    • 5-week summer for students participating in the extra days of instruction, and an 8-week summer for all other students
    • 4 full-day and 2 half-day Teacher Work Days
    • Days off for Easter Monday, Eid al-Fitr, Diwali, and Yom Kippur
    A number of you have reached out asking for more explanation of the "why" behind this calendar. In short, we're putting this forward because there's a great deal of research indicating that this type of schedule can significantly increase learning, particularly for some student subgroups. As a 2012 report by the Virginia General Assembly's Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) noted:
    • "The average English SOL scores of Black students at 74 percent of year-round schools improved faster than average scores at traditional calendar schools, and the average math SOL scores of Black students at 65 percent of year-round schools improved faster than their traditional calendar peers."
    The JLARC study also found positive impacts for teachers. It noted: 
    • "[T]eachers with year-round school experience believed that the calendar generally has a positive influence on student achievement, and benefits teachers both personally and professionally."
    Finally, the study found positive impacts for families. It noted: 
    • "[P]arents of children that have attended year-round schools believed that the calendar positively affected their children academically. They also reported few negative impacts on their families related to scheduling vacations, participation in extracurricular activities, and securing childcare."
    To be sure, this calendar is not a panacea. It's just one of many tools we have to support our schools post-COVID. But, as the research above indicates, it's a powerful tool that can provide a rare win-win-win for our students, families, and staff.
     
     
     
    Would next school year be in-person? Yes. Our goal is to open fully in-person next school year, while also offering a virtual pathway for families who would prefer that option.
    What facility upgrades would be complete for next school year? Our goal is to outfit all RPS schools with bipolar ionization air filtration systems, complete other critical HVAC work, and finish the Bathroom Blitz – all prior to reopening.
    What health and safety protocols would be in place? At a minimum, we would require temperature scanning and symptom assessment upon arrival, mask wearing at all times, multiple opportunities for hand washing throughout the day, a full-time nurse, and ample PPE. Our hope is that, by the fall, 6-foot social distancing would no longer be required. Of course, we would continue to monitor information from the CDC, and issue detailed guidance to students, families, and staff prior to the start of any in-person instruction.
    Would teachers and support staff need to be vaccinated? Our recommendation would be that all teachers and support staff are fully vaccinated (both doses) before returning to in-person instruction. We are cautiously optimistic that all RPS employees will have access to the vaccine over the next 2-3 months.
    What are Jump Start, Fall Boost, and Spring Boost (dates in blue on the proposed calendar)? These would be extra instructional weeks for about 5,000 students who need the most support. Jump Start would be a 3-week session right before school starts; Fall Boost would be a 2-week session in November; and Spring Boost would be a 2-week session at the beginning of March. The teacher-to-student ratio would be kept very low (no more than 1-to-8) and the main instructional focus would be increasing reading proficiency (though other subjects would be addressed at the MS and HS levels). In addition, enrichment activities with local non-profits and cultural institutions would be integrated into the daily schedule.
    Is there any research supporting the idea of something like Jump Start, Fall Boost, and Spring Boost? Yes. There’s a great deal of research indicating that these types of intervention sessions – combined with less time out of school during the summer – can lead to increases in student learning. For example, a 2019 analysis of all the major studies on this topic found that these types of schedules typically produce gains in both reading and math, especially when the time out of school each summer is reduced. And a report by the Virginia General Assembly's Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) indicated that calendars like the one proposed have had a particularly positive effect for Black students in Virginia.
     
    Did we also consider a longer day as an alternative to this schedule? Yes. But we received a great deal of feedback that both students and teachers would be drained by a substantially longer day.
    Why only 5,000 students for Jump Start, Fall Boost, and Spring Boost? We would, of course, love to have even more students in these sessions. But we are limited by funds, and more importantly, by the need to keep the teacher-to-student ratio low. That is critical for the success of the program.
    Would Jump Start, Fall Boost, and Spring Boost be required for the 5,000 prioritized students? No. We would prioritize students by their scores on reading assessments, and strongly encourage them to participate. But the decision would ultimately rest with each family. Of note, we would have a variety of incentives for students who attend these sessions.
    What would students who are not in Jump Start, Fall Boost, and Spring Boost do during these times? Students who do not participate in these sessions would be off. Jump Start would occur in late July and early August before the official first day of school. To support families with childcare during Fall Boost and Spring Boost, we would work with local non-profits to provide low-cost (and potentially, no-cost) camp options.
    How long would the summer 2021 break be for students participating in Jump Start, Fall Boost, and Spring Boost? Students participating in these sessions would have a 5-week summer break. How long would the summer 2021 break be for other students? All other students would have an 8-week summer break.
    Why only 5,000 students for Jump Start, Fall Boost, and Spring Boost? We would, of course, love to have even more students in these sessions. But we are limited by funds, and more importantly, by the need to keep the teacher-to-student ratio low. That is critical for the success of the program.
    Would Jump Start, Fall Boost, and Spring Boost be required for the 5,000 prioritized students? No. We would prioritize students by their scores on reading assessments, and strongly encourage them to participate. But the decision would ultimately rest with each family. Of note, we would have a variety of incentives for students who attend these sessions.
    What would students who are not in Jump Start, Fall Boost, and Spring Boost do during these times? Students who do not participate in these sessions would be off. Jump Start would occur in late July and early August before the official first day of school. To support families with childcare during Fall Boost and Spring Boost, we would work with local non-profits to provide low-cost (and potentially, no-cost) camp options.
    How long would the summer 2021 break be for students participating in Jump Start, Fall Boost, and Spring Boost? Students participating in these sessions would have a 5-week summer break.
    How long would the summer 2021 break be for other students? All other students would have an 8-week summer break.
    Why would RPS be closed for Easter Monday, Eid al-Fitr, Diwali, and Yom Kippur? To make RPS an even more inclusive school system, we feel it would appropriate to give off these religious holidays for our increasingly diverse students and staff.
     
     
    Facilitated Learning Centers – As a reminder, there are still seats available at the "facilitated learning centers" serving RPS students. See below for details.
    • Peter Paul Development Center is running a facilitated learning center at MLK MS for 2nd-8th grade RPS students. The full-day option goes from 9 am until 6 pm, and is completely free for low-income families. To learn more, click here.
    • The YMCA is is running facilitated learning centers at Miles Jones ES, Holton ES, and Huguenot HS for K-8th grade RPS students. The full-day option goes from 7:30 am until 6 pm, and is completely free for low-income families. To learn more, click here.
    • There are also many other facilitated learning centers not housed in RPS schools across the city. To learn more, click here.
     
     
    RPS Love Store – Show your RPS Love and help us raise money for RPS families in need and local racial justice non-profits by ordering something today from the RPS Love Store
     
     
    Crisis Support – Please reach out if you need help.
     
    Important Links – I'll note in orange when there have been additions/updates so you you won't miss anything.
    #ReopenWithLove Links
    Local, State, and National Public Health Links
    Local, State, and National Public Education Links
     

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    Please see below for instructions in multiple languages for how to access the translation functionality of our website. 

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