RPS closing additional days first week of November for employees’ mental health

RICHMOND, Virginia (WWBT) – In an RPS Direct update Wednesday night, Superintendent Jason Kamras said the department will be closing additional days in the first week of November to help with the mental health of employees.

During the first week of November, students had already stopped by November 2 for Election Day, November 4 for Diwali and November 5 for virtual parent/teacher meetings. Now, the department will also be closed on November 1 and November 3, giving students a full holiday.

“I realize I am giving our families very short notice of this calendar change and I truly apologize for the inconvenience this may cause. After very careful consideration, I have made this decision because I believe it is essential to the mental health of our employees. Because of their mental health, I am concerned about the significant absence of staff on 1 and 3. November, which could make it very difficult for us to follow COVID-19 distancing protocols, putting the health of students and staff at risk. Once again, I sincerely apologize for this short notice and thank you in advance for your understanding,” Camras said in the update.

Camras said the decision comes after speaking with dozens of teachers and staff about how tense the year has been so far.

“A lot of people have shared that they are about to get exhausted – and even leave – and it’s only October,” Camras said.

Since this decision was announced, many have expressed support and opposition to this decision.

Jimmette Jones, the mother of a future RPS student and former teacher of the district, says she is happy to see the district focus on mental health.

“We need more conversations about the mental health of teachers and students,” Jones said. “I like that RPS is getting ahead of that curve and having that conversation.”

Kindergarten parent Rachel Sellers understands the reasons behind mental health days and is fully supportive of that.

However, sellers believe that more notice should have been given to parents about this calendar change.

“I know they’re trying to do their best for the fans,” Sellars said. “My heart goes out to those I know will struggle with childcare and get this week off work.”

In his video message, Camras apologized for the short notice and the inconvenience this may cause families.

“After very careful consideration, I made this decision because I believe it is essential to the mental health of our employees,” Camras said. “Because of their mental health, I am concerned about the significant staff absences on November 1 and 3, which could make it very difficult for us to follow COVID-19 distancing protocols, putting the health of students and staff at risk.”

Robin Keegan, a reading specialist at Ginter Park Elementary School, thinks Camras should have planned better these days.

“Now, he (Kamaras) left with struggling teachers and the chaos increased,” she said. “I feel like nothing was very well planned with so many voices in tune.”

NBC12 also reached out to all Richmond School Board members via email.

Jonathan Young, Vice President of the Richmond School Board, did not support this decision and believes more could be done to help teachers.

“There are more effective ways to offer it to our teachers than a last minute and eleventh hour resume, even if it’s only for a week, what we’ve done for a year and a half,” Young said.

In addition to these measures, Kamras said no new programs will be added at the departmental level this year.

Teachers also reported not having enough time since losing duty-free lunches and independent planning time.

“Many teachers have lost duty-free lunch due to our COVID protocols which, in many cases, require students to eat in class with their teacher. We simply do not have enough lunch monitors to cover every room,” Camras said. of these rooms.

The department is now asking for volunteers to help monitor lunches so teachers can take back their duty-free meals. Kamras also instructed administrators to make the necessary changes to help make independent teacher planning time more sacred.

Camras said teachers have also expressed that students have been “very traumatized in the past 20 months,” and that more work is needed to help them.

“I wish I had a quick fix for this, but unfortunately not. Many of our students faced many epidemics before COVID-19: poverty, racism, gun violence and more. The past 20 months have exacerbated these problems. While we have already invested millions this year from For additional mental health clinicians and other support activities, we need to do more. That’s why — with school board approval — I intend to reallocate $3 million in federal relief funding to increase mental health support for our students,” Camras said.

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