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VCU, GRTC reach multiyear agreement to provide transit access to VCU and VCU Health System students, employees

In a recent VCU survey, 95.4% of students and employees expressed support for a continuation of the existing transportation agreement VCU and GRTC have been piloting since August 2018. Since January, VCU community members have accounted for approximately 12% of GRTC’s total ridership, averaging 87,400 trips a month.

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Virginia Commonwealth University signed a three-year paid agreement with the GRTC Transit System on Tuesday to fund unlimited transportation access on Pulse Bus Rapid Transit, local and express routes for all VCU, VCU Health System and Virginia Premier students and employees effective Aug. 1.

“VCU’s partnership with GRTC reflects our shared commitment to the Richmond community as a whole,” said Meredith Weiss, Ph.D., VCU vice president for administration. “Consistent and reliable transit contributes to a healthy and active community by improving accessibility, connectivity and mobility — goals of our ONE VCU Master Plan. We look forward to more innovative collaborations with the city of Richmond and other community partners as we implement our new master plan.”

In a recent VCU survey, 95.4% of students and employees expressed support for a continuation of the existing transportation agreement VCU and GRTC have been piloting since August 2018. Since January, VCU community members have accounted for approximately 12% of GRTC’s total ridership, averaging 87,400 trips a month. GRTC ridership has increased 17% during the past year amid a national trend of declining transit ridership.

“This longer-term agreement with VCU solidifies the great partnership we have been building over the past year,” said Gary Armstrong, chair of the GRTC board of directors. “GRTC staff’s hard work to integrate VCU priorities into the agreement along with VCU’s strong commitment to providing dependable and safe transportation for its students and staff has been rewarding to all involved. We believe that the VCU relationship will spur further efficiency and technological improvements for GRTC that will benefit our whole region going forward.”

“The continued investment and partnership between GRTC and VCU is a win for the City of Richmond that will improve social and economic mobility for residents, students and visitors alike,” said Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney.

Under the new agreement, VCU will pay GRTC $1.42 million for services in the first year, $1.57 million for the second year, and $1.65 million for the third year to cover the cost of ridership for students and employees on local routes and the Pulse and to maintain 10-minute headways for the Pulse. Express fares will continue to be billed separately based on VCU ridership data provided by GRTC. Students and employees of VCU and VCU Health System, including Virginia Premier, will not incur costs to ride.

Riders will continue to present their GO Pass, receipt, and their VCU, VCU Health System or Virginia Premier identification card when riding the Pulse. A mobile pass to replace the physical GO Pass is expected to be available for students and employees for the fall 2019 academic semester.

In an effort to eliminate redundant services and contribute to the cost of the new partnership, VCU will eliminate its Campus Connector transportation service, effective July 1. To travel between the campuses, students and employees can use GRTC’s Pulse, which serves a 7.6-mile route along Broad Street, as well as Route 5, among other routes. GRTC buses servicing both the Pulse and Route 5 will display VCU branding on the exterior destination signage. Shuttle service to VCU’s remote parking facilities will continue to operate as normal.

As part of the new GRTC-VCU agreement, the Pulse will maintain 10-minute headways during weekday hours. Route 5 headways will remain at 15 minutes. In addition, to promote more efficient intra-campus travel, GRTC will relocate its stop at Pine and Main streets to Laurel and Main streets and add two stops on Leigh Street near VCU’s School of Nursing and a stop at Ninth and Broad streets.

“This is an exciting day for VCU, GRTC and the Richmond community,” Weiss said. “This agreement is a result of thoughtful planning and a coordinated effort. It is a true community partnership.”

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Community

Library of Virginia Honors Deaf History Month With a Talk and Exhibition on the History of a Shenandoah County Deaf Village and Shared Signing Community

Between 1740 and 1970, Lantz Mills, Virginia, was home to many families with a mix of hearing and deaf parents and at least one or more deaf siblings.

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In honor of April as Deaf History Month, the Library of Virginia will present a talk on April 22 and a traveling panel exhibition running April 1–30 on the history of the Lantz Mills deaf village and shared signing community in Shenandoah County, Virginia. Both are free.

Between 1740 and 1970, Lantz Mills, Virginia, was home to many families with a mix of hearing and deaf parents and at least one or more deaf siblings. When both the hearing and deaf members of a locality use a shared visual language to communicate, that is known as a shared signing community. Those familiar with deaf culture may know that Martha’s Vineyard, the island off Massachusetts, was home to a shared signing community where 25% of the population was deaf. But few know that Virginia had a deaf village and shared signing community in Shenandoah County.

The Lantz Mills Deaf Village panel exhibition has appeared at Shenandoah County Public Library and the Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People. It will visit the Eastern Shore Public Library in June. The exhibition is available for display at public libraries and other cultural facilities. For more information, contact Barbara Batson at [email protected] or 804.692.3721.

The talk and exhibition are made possible in part with federal funding provided through the Library Services and Technology Act administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. For more information about the commonwealth’s deaf culture, visit the Virginia Deaf Culture Digital Library at https://deaflibva.org.

DEAF HISTORY MONTH TALK | The Lantz Mills Shared Signing Community
Saturday, April 22, 2023 | 10:00–11:00 a.m. | Free
Place: Lecture Hall, Library of Virginia, 800 East Broad St., Richmond, VA 23219
Registration suggested: https://lva-virginia.libcal.com/event/10478065

In honor of Deaf History Month, the Library presents a talk exploring the history of the Lantz Mills deaf village in Shenandoah County, Virginia, by deaf historian and advocate Kathleen Brockway, who is also a Lantz Mills deaf village descendant.

DEAF HISTORY MONTH PANEL EXHIBITION | Lantz Mills Deaf Village
April 1–30, 2023 | Monday–Saturday, 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. | Free
Place: Lobby & Pre-function Hall, Library of Virginia, 800 East Broad St., Richmond, VA 23219

In honor of Deaf History Month, the Library presents a panel exhibition exploring the history of the Lantz Mills deaf village in Shenandoah County, Virginia. This six-panel traveling exhibition features the history of prominent deaf villagers such as the Hollar and Christian families, deaf members’ involvement in local businesses, and even a budding romance within the community. Each panel includes a QR code that links to ASL interpretation of the text featured. A booklet about the topic written by deaf historian and Lantz Mills deaf village descendant Kathleen Brockway will be available to exhibition visitors while supplies last.

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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.”

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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.

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