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Five simple ways you can show love for Richmond Public Schools right now

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This fall marks my tenth year teaching elementary art in Richmond Public Schools. The past decade has been a crazy ride with constant shifts in leadership and a pervasive feeling that we are barely keeping our heads above water. Regardless of this, I continue to believe that I am right where I belong and that my work allows me to truly live out my values. I know firsthand how hard the teachers in RPS work and how much they give despite the challenges we face. I also know how awesome our students are and how much many of them have to overcome on a daily basis.

This fall is also my second year as a parent of an RPS student and I am so thankful for the love my child experienced last year in Kindergarten and for his enthusiasm for learning and school. I know that the Richmond community wants to see things get better so that ALL of our children can experience this joy and support in our public school system.

If you feel like I feel, there are many ways to help, right now. Richmond native, Arthur Ashe said, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Join me and so many others as we shift the negative narrative about Richmond Public Schools and allow our values to speak through our choices and actions. Thanks for giving your love, Richmond!

1. #CleartheList

Many teachers have created Amazon wishlists and are using social media to share their needs for the school year. (I’m updating mine today!) The hashtag #clearthelist is trending this summer as many celebrities are endorsing this movement to provide teachers with classroom supplies. This whole thing was actually started by a Virginia teacher this July through a facebook page that went viral.

2. Donors Choose

You may have already heard about the website, Donors Choose, which allows teachers to create requests for funding of supplies, projects, professional development and even classroom trips or visitors. It’s super easy to use and you can search by city or zip code to find live projects. Often there are matching funds available through organizations.

3. RPS Shines

Local volunteer organization, Hands on Greater Richmond, has partnered with Richmond Public Schools to organize volunteers this summer for the second annual RPS Shines initiative. There are opportunities for community members to sign up and come out for a three hour shift to beautify schools before the students return in a few weeks. My son and I will be helping out at our school this Wednesday. Giving time is a great way to help if you can’t give money.

4. STAY RVA

Supporting Together Area Youth (STAY) RVA is a movement comprised of parents and neighbors who want to help Richmond’s local public schools thrive. We are a positive-minded, solution-oriented, action-based organization. We want you to be a part of STAY… STAY in the city, STAY committed, STAY open-minded. We want to build communities of support around every school and engage in honest conversations about why schools have not had the resources they need. We want to BECOME genuine community members who work to form relationships with all people.

5. The Ultimate Backpack

The goal of The Ultimate Backpack is to fill 15,000 backpacks before the school year starts. The Ultimate Backpack presented by CoStar Group school supply and backpack drive will take place on August 14, 2019 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m..at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery on Ownby Lane in Richmond. Participants can drop off donated backpacks or any school supplies from the supply list below to Hardywood Brewery (Downtown). You can make a monetary donation and we will purchase the needed supplies. These donations will help us purchase school supplies at a discount and fill any gaps not covered by the community. Please contact Timmy Nguyen at VCU if you have any questions.

Needed school supplies include:

  • Composition notebooks
  • Crayons
  • Erasers
  • Folders
  • Glue stick
  • Highlighter
  • Loose leaf paper
  • Markers
  • Pen & pencils
  • Pencil pouch
  • Scissors (blunt tip)
  • Spiral notebooks

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City of Richmond announces Small Business Disaster Loan Program

The Richmond Economic Development Authority on Thursday created the Richmond Small Business Disaster Loan Program (COVID-19), which will offer interest-free emergency loans of up to $20,000 to small businesses within city limits.

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The Richmond Economic Development Authority on Thursday created the Richmond Small Business Disaster Loan Program (COVID-19), which will offer interest-free emergency loans of up to $20,000 to small businesses within city limits.

The program is intended to provide relief to small businesses that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Monies will go toward paying employee wages, empowering local, small businesses to continue operating and keep employees on their payroll.

“Small businesses have made Richmond the thriving cultural capital we love,” said Mayor Stoney. “They’ve been understanding, patient and selfless in adapting to the recent social distancing guidance, no matter the economic consequences for them. This loan program is one way we can help provide some relief and support in this tough time.”

The maximum loan amount for the program is six months of current employee wages or $20,000, whichever is less. Loan payments will be disbursed over six months.

Repayment of the loans will be deferred for six months, followed by 48 months of no-interest payments.

Small businesses interested in applying should fill out the application and provide the required documentation via email. The application will be available starting Monday, April 6.

Funding is limited. Applications will be considered in the order they are submitted.

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Downtown

Schools, nonprofits hustle to feed over a half million Virginia students: ‘It’s incredible’

Richmond school bus driver Tyrone McBride is still driving a big, yellow bus through Richmond neighborhoods, but these days, he’s transporting boxes of food for kids in need. More than a week has passed since Gov. Ralph Northam announced students will not return to school this academic year, and volunteers are still fighting to feed the 590,000 children in Virginia with free or reduced lunches who were ordered to remain home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Capital News Service

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By Hannah Eason

Richmond school bus driver Tyrone McBride is still driving a big, yellow bus through Richmond neighborhoods, but these days, he’s transporting boxes of food for kids in need.

“It gets me out of the house,” said McBride, who has been a school bus driver for 18 years, “and you know, you’re doing a great deed and helping people out.”

More than a week has passed since Gov. Ralph Northam announced students will not return to school this academic year, and volunteers are still working to feed the 590,000 children in Virginia eligible for free or reduced lunches who were ordered to remain home during the coronavirus pandemic. Schools have been closed since March 16, though students were originally slated to return by March 27.

Whitcomb Court resident Simone Sanders said her children are now eating at home during the day, but she didn’t receive an increase in food stamps. One child is disabled, which prevents Sanders from being able to work.

“It’s affecting us bad, especially in the projects, and there’s nothing for the kids to do all day,” Sanders said. “And then you have to worry about your child just being outside getting shot.”

Sanders said she’s grateful for the food from Richmond Public Schools, and says she occasionally gives food to neighborhood kids who say they’re hungry.

The Richmond Public Schools meal distribution program, like others around the state, continues to evolve during the coronavirus pandemic that caused a surge of Virginians to file for unemployment. Almost 46,300 Virginians filed for unemployment between March 15 and March 21. The previous week 2,706 people filed an unemployment claim, according to the Virginia Employment Commission.

The program started with 10 school sites, and has since grown into at least 43 sites throughout the community and 10 school sites.

Erin Stanley, director of family engagement at Richmond Public Schools, said volunteers, bus drivers and the district’s nutrition staff have made the efforts possible. Volunteers were using personal vehicles to drop off food, but RPS decided that school buses would better suit the cause.

“We did that for a couple of reasons,” Stanley said. “One, so we can get more food out, and two, because school buses are a bit more well known and probably more trusted than individual volunteers going in with their personal vehicles.”

Plastic bags filled with milk cartons, sandwiches, apples and snacks are handed out in neighborhoods found on the Richmond Public Schools’ website. School distribution sites are open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and neighborhood times vary by location. Any student in the school district can use the program, Stanley said.

Volunteer Natalie Newfield said many families she gave meals to lost jobs in the restaurant industry.

 “They’re changing the way they do deliveries, which is amazing,” Newfield said. “Every day you give them a count. If they need more food, the next day, all of a sudden your bus has more food. It’s incredible.”

Statewide efforts to feed children in Virginia

When schools closed, the U.S. Department of Agriculture activated the Summer Meals Program, which funds public schools and local organizations to serve breakfast and lunch during the summer.

Del. Danica Roem, D-Prince William, pressed the USDA to change its policy which required parents to have their child with them when picking up food.

Roem said it was difficult for a Prince William County mother to access food for her two children. Her daughter has an immune system deficiency caused by recent cancer treatments, making her susceptible to the COVID-19 virus.

“When you’re talking about a 7-year-old with cancer, we have to really evaluate what is it that our policy is trying to prevent that is more important than feeding a child with cancer,” Roem said.

Roem said she was able to bring groceries to the family, who live in the representative’s district. As they carried bags of food inside, Roem said the mother told her children, “We’re eating tonight.”

“I fought with the USDA for a full week and won a major, major victory for kids throughout Virginia and across the country, and especially immunocompromised kids, to make sure that they stay safe, that they stay home,” Roem said.

The USDA waived the restriction last week, and states can now choose to waive the in-person policy for students to receive food.

No Kid Hungry, a national campaign launched by nonprofit Share Our Strength, is offering emergency grants to local school divisions and organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The grants can help people who are trying to make meal distribution possible, but may lack the equipment necessary to feed children outside of a school setting.

Sarah Steely, senior program manager at No Kid Hungry Virginia, said the grants can fund necessities like vehicles, gas, coolers and equipment to keep food safe during distribution.

“Those might not be resources that folks already have, because those aren’t service models that were expected of them before,” Steely said, “so we’re here to support community organizations and school divisions as they figure out what it is they need to distribute to kids.”

The organization works with YMCAs, childcare centers, libraries and all 133 of Virginia’s public school divisions.

The organization recently activated their texting hotline for those unsure of where their next meal is coming from: text “FOOD” to 877-877. The hotline is generally used during the summer months, but was reactivated to combat food insecurity during the coronavirus pandemic.

Steely called the hotline “a tool in a bigger toolbox of resources” and encouraged families to contact their local school board for updated information about their locality.

“They count on that as a primary source of nutrition, so with schools closed, we want to make sure that the students who are accessing meals at school are now accessing those meals at home,” Steely said.

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Community

Use Exact Change or E-Zpass on Powhite Parkway Starting Today

There will be no manned booths taking money on Powhite for the foreseeable future.

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The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has temporarily suspended cash exchange tolls on Powhite Parkway extension and the George P. Coleman Memorial Bridge. This means there won’t be someone to take your money so either have exact change, pay too much, or use an E-Zpass. No mention of any changes to Nickel aka Boulevard Bridge.

As of April 1, if you make an unpaid trip on a Virginia toll facility, you may be able to pay that toll through the “missed-a-toll” process before receiving a notice/invoice. The “missed-a-toll” payment process must take place within six days of the unpaid toll trip.

The standard administration fee associated with “missed-a-toll” has been suspended temporarily.

Exact change can still be dropped into the coin basket at the Powhite Parkway Extension.

E-ZPass is now the most convenient and safest way to pay tolls.

For more information or to order your own E-ZPass, click here.

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