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Scenes from Hollywood Cemetery

Just a few pictures from a morning walk.

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Richard Hayes is the co-founder of RVAHub. When he isn't rounding up neighborhood news, he's likely watching soccer or chasing down the latest and greatest board game.

Downtown

Feds identify ‘significant’ ongoing concerns with Virginia special education

After failing to meet federal requirements to support students with disabilities in 2020, the Virginia Department of Education will remain under further review by the federal government after continuing to fall short in monitoring and responding to complaints against school districts, according to a letter from the U.S. Department of Education.

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By Nathaniel Cline

After failing to meet federal requirements to support students with disabilities in 2020, the Virginia Department of Education will remain under further review by the federal government after continuing to fall short in monitoring and responding to complaints against school districts, according to a letter from the U.S. Department of Education.

“We have significant new or continued areas of concerns with the State’s implementation of general supervision, dispute resolution, and confidentiality requirements” of IDEA, stated the Feb. 17 letter from the Office of Special Education Programs.

The U.S. Department of Education first flagged its concerns in a June 2020 “Differentiated Monitoring and Support Report” on how Virginia was complying with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, following a 2019 visit by the Office of Special Education Programs.

IDEA, passed in 1975, requires all students with disabilities to receive a “free appropriate public education.”

The Virginia Department of Education disputed some of the federal government’s findings in a June 19, 2020 letter.

Samantha Hollins, assistant superintendent of special education and student services, wrote that verbal complaints “are addressed via technical assistance phone calls to school divisions” and staff members “regularly work to resolve parent concerns” by providing “guidance documentation” and acting as intermediaries between school employees and parents.

However, some parents and advocates say systemic problems in how the state supports families of children with disabilities persist. At the same time, a June 15, 2022 state report found one of Virginia’s most critical teacher shortage areas is in special education.

“Appropriate policies and procedures for both oversight and compliance, and their implementation, are crucial to ensuring that children with disabilities and their families are afforded their rights under IDEA and that a free appropriate public education (FAPE) is provided,” said the Feb. 17 letter from the Office of Special Education Programs.

While the U.S. Department of Education wrote that it believes the Virginia Department of Education has resolved some of the problems identified in 2020, including resolving complaints filed by parents and creating a mediation plan, it said it has identified “new and continued areas of concern” and intends to continue monitoring Virginia’s provision of services for students with disabilities.

Among those are ongoing concerns over the state’s complaint and due process systems that “go beyond the originally identified concerns” originally found. The Office of Special Education Programs writes it has concluded Virginia “does not have procedures and practices that are reasonably designed to ensure a timely resolution process” for due process complaints.

The department also said it has concerns over the practices of at least five school districts that are inconsistent with IDEA’s regulations.

The decision comes after the U.S. Department of Education announced in November that Fairfax County Public Schools, Virginia’s largest school district, failed to provide thousands of students with disabilities with the educational services they were entitled to during remote learning at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Virginia is also facing a federal class-action lawsuit over claims that its Department of Education and Fairfax County Public Schools violated the rights of disabled students under IDEA.

Parents involved in the case said the Virginia Department of Education and Fairfax school board “have actively cultivated an unfair and biased” hearing system to oversee challenges to local decisions about disabled students, according to the suit.

Charles Pyle, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Education, said in an email that “VDOE continues to work with our federal partners to ensure Virginia’s compliance with all federal requirements, as we have since the ‘Differentiated Monitoring and Support Report’ was issued in June 2020.”

The federal government said if Virginia could not demonstrate full compliance with IDEA requirements, it could impose conditions on grant funds the state receives to support early intervention and special education services for children with disabilities and their families.

Last year, Virginia received almost $13.5 billion in various grants linked to IDEA, according to a July 1, 2022 letter to former Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow, who resigned on March 9.

James Fedderman, president of the Virginia Education Association, blasted Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration after the findings were released.

“While the Youngkin administration has been busy waging culture wars in schools, his administration has failed to meet basic compliance requirements with the U.S. Department of Education for students with disabilities,” Fedderman said. “This failure threatens our federal funding for students with disabilities and is a disservice to Virginia families who need critical special needs support.”

Will you help support independent, local journalism?

We need your help. RVAHub is a small, independent publication, and we depend on our readers to help us provide a vital community service. If you enjoy our content, would you consider a donation as small as $5? We would be immensely grateful! Interested in advertising your business, organization, or event? Get the details here.

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Richmond 911 callers can soon provide feedback on calls for service via text message

Beginning March 20, those who call 911 with some types of non-life-threatening emergencies will receive a text message within hours or a day after the call with a short survey about the service they received on the call.

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Some 911 callers in Richmond will begin to receive follow-up text messages next week asking for their ranking of the service they received and additional information.

Beginning March 20, those who call 911 with some types of non-life-threatening emergencies will receive a text message within hours or a day after the call with a short survey about the service they received on the call.

The Richmond Department of Emergency Communications, Preparedness and Response is using the feedback from callers as another way to ensure that it is continuing to deliver excellent emergency services to Richmond.

“It is very important that those who receive the text message answer the questions as accurately as possible, based on the service they received on the call, not on the response from first responders with different agencies,” said Director Stephen Willoughby. “We use the feedback that callers provide to monitor and improve our 911 services to Richmond residents and visitors, as well as the other measurements of service that we have in place.”

Those who would like to offer feedback, but do not receive a text message, are encouraged to email [email protected] or call 804-646-5911. More information about offering commendations or filing a complaint is on the department’s website athttps://www.rva.gov/911/comments. In addition, the department conducts a full survey of adults who live, work and study in Richmond every two years. More information about those surveys and results are at https://www.rva.gov/911/community-outreach.

The Department of Emergency Communications, Preparedness and Response is using a third-party vendor, PowerEngage, to send the text-message surveys and report the results. Text messages may be sent for other uses in the future.

More information about the text-message surveys, from the news release:

  • The answers that callers provide in the text message have no effect on the service provided to that caller.
  • Callers who do not want to participate in the text-message survey would simply not respond to the text message. They also may reply STOP to opt out of future text surveys from DECPR.
  • Callers should not use the surveys to report any other emergency or request help. They would need to call or text 911 for immediate help. To file a police report or request nonemergency public safety help, call 804-646-5100. For other city services, call 311, visit rva311.com or use the RVA311 app.
  • Those who have further questions or would like to request a call-back from a staff member about the survey or their experiences, may email [email protected].
  • More information about the after-call survey is at https://www.rva.gov/911/survey.

Will you help support independent, local journalism?

We need your help. RVAHub is a small, independent publication, and we depend on our readers to help us provide a vital community service. If you enjoy our content, would you consider a donation as small as $5? We would be immensely grateful! Interested in advertising your business, organization, or event? Get the details here.

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Community

Teens Make Art Your Summer Job

Hurry up, the deadline is today.

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Students in 9th-11th grade can apply to join the next cohort of this summer’s Atlas Artist Residency—an 8-week art intensive giving teens the opportunity to develop artistic skills while working alongside professional artists in a creative and collaborative environment. 10 teens will be selected to participate and awarded personal art-studio space, a program stipend of $1350, materials, and the opportunity to expand their portfolio of work and bolster their resume for college applications.

Applications are open through March 16, 2023.
Head to https://www.art180.org/student-artist-residency for the details and to submit your application!

Will you help support independent, local journalism?

We need your help. RVAHub is a small, independent publication, and we depend on our readers to help us provide a vital community service. If you enjoy our content, would you consider a donation as small as $5? We would be immensely grateful! Interested in advertising your business, organization, or event? Get the details here.

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