RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — According to a presentation of the Virginia Growth Assessment (VGA) results of the Richmond Public Schools (RPS) students’ Virginia Growth Assessment (VGA) results to the school board at its Monday night meeting.
The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) launched the VGA this fall to provide basic reading and math data as students return to school after the disruptions caused by the pandemic.
RPS Chief Academic Officer Tracy Epp said the VGA results are simply a way to examine growth. Students will continue to follow the traditional Standards of Learning (SOLs) each spring.
The results showed that 35% of RPS students in grades 3 through 8 showed proficiency in reading, while that number was only 10% in math.
In an effort to make up for some of the learning lost during the height of the pandemic when schools closed, the school board heard a presentation on proposed goals and the timeline for the 2022-23 academic year calendar, which included a discussion about an extended – annual calendar.
“Given the results of the Virginia Growth Assessment, it is clear that the vast majority of our students require additional instructional time to address unfinished learning from the pandemic,” the presentation said. “An extended annual calendar will also reduce the likelihood of our students experiencing the well-documented learning loss that occurs over the summer (‘summer slide’).”
Last year, the school board voted to postpone the implementation of an extended annual calendar until 2022-23. While the process has begun to select a new calendar for the coming academic year, Monday night’s meeting only discussed this matter; it was not listening as an action item on the agenda.
However, the effects of the COVID-19 health crisis are being felt in Richmond Public Schools, beyond student learning.
According to a separate presentation to the RPS School Board on Monday evening, there are 94 teacher vacancies, up from 64 teacher vacancies on Oct. 1. Officials have confirmed that the majority of recent layoffs are due to the school division’s vaccine mandate.
It was also revealed Monday that 92.2% of RPS employees are failing to comply with the above mandate, either through documentation of COVID-19 vaccination or an approved waiver.
At the meeting, the vice president of the school board and Jonathan Young, the representative of the fourth district, suggested that disciplinary action for failure to comply with the school division’s vaccine mandate be stopped if employees agree to participate in weekly meetings. tests, and stated that those who have lost their salary as part of such action will be compensated. 3rd District Representative Kenya Gibson supported the motion.
After much discussion, the motion was passed with 6-3 votes. 1st District Representative Elizabeth Doerr, Chair and 7th District Representative Cheryl Burke and 8th District Representative Dawn Page voted against the proposal.
“It hurts a lot to withhold pay and continue the progressive disciplining process for the vaccine mandate, and so I certainly understand the motion that is on the table, and I am also well aware of the impact that the additional vacancies will have, ‘ said Chief Inspector Jason Kamras. “I do want to say that our mandate has dramatically increased our vaccination coverage and, I think, kept our schools and our children safe, and I do believe that taking this step, while understandable, would weaken that.”
Monday night’s vote does not affect RPS’s vaccine mandate. However, questions remain about how the requirements will be enforced without the disciplinary action initially approved with the mandate in August.
“A mandate is not a mandate if there are no consequences for not fulfilling the mandate,” Kamras said. “As much as I am hurt by withholding pay and, ultimately, ending someone’s employment, I believe this body made that decision because we felt it was so important that the staff in our buildings who work with our children were fully vaccinated.”