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Richmond School Board approves 200-day calendar at Fairfield Court

Man leaning forward
Crixell Matthews
VPM News File
Richmond Superintendent Jason Kamras at a School Board meeting in 2019.

It’s part of a pilot program to address learning loss due to the pandemic.

Richmond’s School Board voted Monday night to approve an extended school year for Fairfield Court Elementary School students. The new calendar will begin next school year as part of a pilot program to help address COVID-19 pandemic–related learning loss.

The motion passed 7–2, with Kenya Gibson (3rd) and Mariah White (2nd) voting against the proposal.

Superintendent Jason Kamras said a dozen schools throughout the division applied for the pilot, but Fairfield Court is the first to get a green light to move forward.

“So, no school will go to the board [for approval] if it doesn't have majority support from the staff and majority support from the families,” Kamras told VPM News.

More than 90% of staff and families at Fairfield Court voted for the extended calendar, according to district data.

The extension increases the number of instructional days from 180 to 200 for the 2023-24 school year. Schools on this 200-day calendar, referred to in the RPS update documentation as “RPS200 schools,” will reportedly start on July 24.

Schools in the pilot program will maintain the same last day (May 31, 2024), holidays and breaks as schools on the 180-day instructional calendar.

Fourth District member Jonathan Young praised the school district and Kamras for the plan.

“To add four additional weeks is a transformative opportunity, and I gladly support this,” Young said on Monday. “In fact, what’s more, I can’t think of many things we could do as a board to move the needle in a more substantive way.”

The pilot is being funded by the “last batch” of federal American Rescue Plan stimulus funds for learning time extensions, according to Kamras.

Gibson expressed multiple concerns about the program, arguing that the “continued use of one-time funds” could send the school district over a “fiscal cliff” sooner rather than later.

“I want to reiterate that it is of critical importance that the board receive an overview of what that budget is going to look like,” Gibson said. “How much are we looking at — in terms of a gap — because we’ve used one-time funds to fund these recurring expenses?”

Teachers and full-time contracted support staff will be moved to 11-month contracts while employed at RPS200 pilot schools. Administrators will receive $15,000 bonuses for each year the pilot is active, while teachers will receive $10,000 bonuses.

According to the division’s presentation, “ALL RPS200 staff would receive an additional $5,000 bonus if their school meets student outcome goals established at the beginning of the year and approved by the Superintendent.”

Other locations still being considered for the program this coming academic year include Overby-Sheppard and Cardinal elementary schools, where staff majorities also voted in support of the schedule change. RPS is still waiting to hear from more families at those schools before submitting updates to the school board.

If RPS200 is implemented at all three schools, the division estimates it will spend approximately $3.58 million in personnel costs.

Meanwhile, Westover Hills Elementary School voted not to participate in the program.

Megan Pauly covers education and health care issues in the greater Richmond region.
Dawnthea M. Price Lisco (dawn-TAY-uh, she/her) is the managing editor at VPM News.