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

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

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

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