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RPS Cannot Return to In-Person Instruction by March 15th

Richmond For All’s Public Education Campaign Committee
Brionna Nomi & Kristin Reed, co-chairs

“No one wants to be back in those buildings more than we do. We know that in-person instruction is the goal, and we believe that we are getting closer to being able to do that every day. However, the best way to move ahead is not to set an arbitrary date. Instead, we must keep our focus on ensuring that all school staff members have the opportunity to be vaccinated and that all necessary safety precautions and mitigation measures are in place, along with the resources to sustain them.”

Dr. James J. Fedderman
President, Virginia Education Association

Richmond For All’s Public Education Campaign Committee stands in solidarity with RPS workers, students, families, and communities in stating unequivocally that Richmond Public Schools cannot return to in-person instruction by March 15th. Decades of profound disinvestment have left our city’s schools without the essential resources necessary for a safe return: working sinks, sufficient nursing staff, sufficient janitorial staff, adequate ventilation, working windows, even simple needs like soap in every bathroom. Because federal and state leadership have promoted under-resourced and too-small public health responses, COVID continues to spread. While the state of our schools has been a public health crisis for some time, there is no reason to add to the suffering by forcing a return too early. Schools cannot solve public health problems on their own, and in the context of an ongoing pandemic, decaying facilities and understaffing are a threat to the lives of our workers and students and their families.

While our elected leadership has failed to provide for our schools and our students, they have an opportunity to do so now by allocating adequate resources to facilitate the safe return to the classroom for all RPS stakeholders. We have targeted needs in facilities, staffing, educational access, and health services. By meeting these needs our leadership can begin to address decades of racist policy, ensure safe working conditions for thousands of Richmonders, and affirm the right of every RPS student to a safe and affirming learning environment.

Sinks at Binford Middle School, 2019. (Debbie Truong/The Washington Post)

Before any students or staff return to in-person learning, RPS must address the following issues related to facilities & staffing, learning conditions, and health services:

Facilities & Staffing

  • ensure that any facility supporting in-person learning has working HVAC systems with bi-polar ionization
  • complete the 2018 “Bathroom Blitz” to ensure there are working sinks with in-stock sanitization supplies at every RPS school
  • increase custodial capacity to meet CDC sanitization standards, including regular deep cleans when students and instructional staff are not in buildings
  • guarantee no retaliation or loss of compensation for staff who choose to continue working virtually
  • place a full-time nurse in every school

Learning Conditions

  • establish parity in virtual and in-person learning options, ensuring students who must remain home have equitable access to a world-class education
  • ensure in-person learning spaces are staffed with sufficient qualified workers to assure educators can meet the needs of both in-person and virtual learners
  • avoid simultaneous virtual / in-person instruction, which forces a single educator to teach two classes at once and leads to a lower quality learning experience for both virtual and in-person learners
  • prioritize socio-emotional supports with flexible schedules and no pressure on students or teachers to “perform” on standardized assessments

Health Services

  • complete the vaccination sequence for all adults who will work on site or in transportation prior to staff and students re-entering buildings or using the RPS bus system
  • establish testing protocols and ensure that schools are equipped with ample, accurate rapid tests; make testing accessible for RPS families
  • provide appropriate PPE for all employees and students, including masks, gloves, gowns, and other equipment and supplies necessary for specific jobs
  • grant full accommodations to staff and students who may be considered high risk related to COVID-19 and to as well as workers with families who might be affected
  • establish — and make publicly accessible — a dashboard with regularly updated data from Administration including total number of COVID cases, capacity of buildings, and in-person versus virtual attendance options for families



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Richmond For All

Richmond For All

#RichmondForAll is a coalition of individuals and organizations fighting for housing, education, environmental, & racial justice. We put #PeopleOverProfit.