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Richmond Schools Reject Year-Round Calendar for Next Year

Man gestures
Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras at a 2019 School Board meeting. On Monday, the School Board rejected Kamras' proposal to implement a year-round calendar. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

After weeks of debate, the Richmond School Board chose to use a traditional school calendar for the upcoming academic year, rejecting Superintendent Jason Kamras’ proposal for 7 weeks of extra, optional instruction.

They also voted to develop a robust summer program to help students left behind by virtual learning this year, and committed to offering a year-round option for the 2022-2023 school year.

The school board also voted to make Sept. 7 the first day of classes for the 2021-2022 school year.

Monday night, the board voted to delay a decision on the year-round proposal, which would have started next month. They changed their mind late in the night, after Kamras gave board members an ultimatum:

“If the board wants to move forward with a year-round proposal, realistically the board would have to move forward with what we have presented at this time,” he said. “If the board is not prepared to move forward with this calendar, at this point I would prefer a traditional calendar and we just focus on summer school.”

While the previous board asked Kamras to come up with several year-round options last July, he formally presented a single draft of the calendar for the first time only two weeks ago. The new board, which took office in January, said the proposal lacked details and was being rushed.

“I don’t like the pressure of this. I don’t feel like the community has collaborated enough to come up with what will be best for our children,” said Boardmember Stephanie Rizzi.

The board voted 8 to 1 to adopt a traditional calendar for next year. The single dissenting vote came from member Jonathan Young, who’s been a big advocate to returning to in-person learning. He said a traditional calendar would “constitute business as usual.”

“We’re going to deprive [students] of the opportunity to have education in person, and now we’re unwilling to provide them with the support to play catch up. I’m terribly disappointed,” Young said.

The goal of the year-round calendar was to help Richmond’s highest-need students make up for learning loss from the pandemic and the summer break. About 5,000 students would have gotten seven extra weeks of extra instruction each year for the next two years: three in the summer, two in November and two in March.

The extra days were optional, and students who opted out would get those weeks off. Also, teachers were not required to work the extra weeks, but would have received additional compensation.

Richmond schools had set aside $14 million dollars of federal stimulus money in its budget to fund the year-round calendar changes. With the proposal being turned down, that money is not freed up for “additional learning supports.”

Kamras told the board Monday he will offer a proposal at an upcoming meeting for how to spend that money. The school board is not set to meet again until April 12.