Richmond School Board votes on two proposals for Virtual Academy program

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Richmond Public Schools School Board voted on two proposals related to the Richmond Virtual Academy program during a meeting Monday night.

The Board voted against the first proposal to put more teachers into the Academy and voted to approve the second proposal to cut the program in half.

The first proposal was rejected by a margin of seven to two. The second proposal was approved by five votes to two, with two abstentions.

3rd District Representative Kenya Gibson and 4th District Representative Jonathan Young proposed that the council add more leadership to a program that has received good feedback.

“My bias is in favor of our teachers and principals, and that is why we put forward a relevant proposal for the staffing of Richmond Virtual Academy last night – which favored what the management of Richmond Virtual Academy, as well as the teachers, preferred,” Young said.

There are currently 64 full-time employees for the Richmond Virtual Academy. In the next school year, there will be 30. Six teachers among these 30 employees will be in charge of K-5, leaving one teacher for each class. The number of students who can enroll in the program has also been reduced from 750 to 350.

As online learning began with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Young said many families have preferred web-based learning to in-person learning.

“The truth is, I believe in choice and I believe in giving families choice. This is why Virtual Academy is part of a strong portfolio of options next year for our families in the City of Richmond,” said Young.

Employees who do not yet have a placement for next year will receive placement letters during the week of May 16. The allocation will be based on seniority. There are a number of new virtual learning jobs for the 2022-23 school year, including eight openings for grades 6-12 teachers, four exceptional education teachers, three recall teachers, two teachers CTE, a director and an ESL teacher, among other administrative positions.

Kim Jones, a third-grade teacher, shared her concerns about the small number of teachers.

“So now imagine having just one teacher per grade level,” Jones said. “The amount of work for an academic subject takes time with writing the weekly plans, creating the slide decks, which can contain up to 350 slides, and implementing the daily plan each school day with a cheerful and bubbly attitude… now multiply that work times four.

The superintendent is sending surveys to families currently enrolled in virtual learning to determine their interest in returning for the next school year. The survey can be found here.

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