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Recommended HCPS 2020-21 financial plan includes big wins for students, staff members

The budget proposal focuses on more opportunities and support systems for students and teachers, continued investment in safe and well-maintained learning spaces, and restoring cuts suffered during the Great Recession.

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Henrico County Public Schools’ 2020-21 Recommended Financial Plan includes $19 million in new funding and addresses some major needs of Henrico families, teachers, and staff members. The budget proposal focuses on more opportunities and support systems for students and teachers, continued investment in safe and well-maintained learning spaces, and restoring cuts suffered during the Great Recession. Important budget initiatives include:

  • Forty school counselors, nearly doubling the number of counselors at the elementary level in order to address a critical need among students for social and emotional support.
  • Daily elementary teacher planning time, fulfilling a promise to instructors to provide important resources. HCPS continues to add support staff in schools, such as counselors, innovative learning coaches, and library assistants so that master schedules can be adjusted to ensure daily planning time.
  • Converting 25 exceptional education instructional assistants from temporary to full-time positions. The change would strengthen the support for students with special needs, give them more continuity in the classroom, and provide valued employees with full-time benefits.
  • A new “career ladder” program, enabling staff members to climb in experience, expertise and pay.
  • Thirty-five full-time substitutes to provide more consistent coverage in schools. All 35 positions would have higher salaries and full-time benefits, to help attract and retain excellent candidates.
  • Thirteen elementary school library assistants, to ensure that elementary library programming offers greater opportunities for students and teachers.
  • Developing a school bus tracking app to allow parents to locate their student’s bus in real-time.
  • An emergency planning and response system known as “Anonymous Alerts,” and updated registration software for school visitors.

While a pay increase for HCPS employees is not yet included in the proposed budget, it is customary in Henrico County to consider compensation increases for both schools and general government employees later in the budget process.

“As I’ve talked this year with Henrico families, staff members and people in the community, I’ve gained a greater understanding of areas that need our investment if we are to continue to grow and thrive as a school division,” said Amy Cashwell, HCPS superintendent.

“This financial plan incorporates that input, builds on the progress we’ve made in recent years, and continues to focus on the goals in our strategic plan.”

The 2020-21 recommended budget totals $533,489,709, a 3.7% increase over the current year. Building and revising the document is a collaboration between HCPS staff members and general government partners, led by John Vithoulkas, Henrico county manager. The process included significant feedback from the public and employees, including two community input meetings in October and two additional public input sessions in front of the School Board in November and December. Community input, ideas and feedback were also received via email.

School Board members will review the proposal and provide additional feedback and direction to school division staff. School Board members will approve a budget in February, after which the plan moves to the Henrico Board of Supervisors for its approval.

Members of the public may comment on the proposed budget at a public hearing to be held after the School Board’s regular work session on Feb. 13. More information will be available at the School Board’s webpage at henricoschools.us/school-board/.

Find out more about the recommended plan by going to henricoschools.us/budget-finance/.

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Library of Virginia reopens to researchers by advance appointment beginning today

During the initial reopening phase, researchers will be able to use the collections by appointment Tuesday–Friday, 10:00 am–4:00 pm.

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The Library of Virginia has announced that its reading rooms will reopen to researchers by advance appointment beginning at 10:00 am on Tuesday, July 7, 2020.

During the initial reopening phase, researchers will be able to use the collections by appointment Tuesday–Friday, 10:00 am–4:00 pm. To make an appointment, please call 804.692.3800.

COVID-19, which prompted the Library’s closing to the public in mid-March, continues to pose a serious public health risk. The Library’s reopening plan includes new health and safety protocols based on the latest guidance from the Governor’s Office, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

What to expect when returning to the Library:

  • Appointments required to use the reading rooms in order to ensure space availability on a researcher’s preferred date
  • Signage describing coronavirus symptoms – Please do not enter the building if you feel unwell or have a fever
  • Face coverings required in the building at all times
  • Physical distancing of six feet required in all public spaces
  • Face masks and hand sanitizer available for the public
  • Frequent cleaning of restrooms and surfaces in public areas throughout the day
  • Returned books quarantined for three days before being available for use again
  • The Exhibition Gallery, the Virginia Shop, our conference rooms, and the reading room at the State Records Center will remain closed

For additional information about what to expect on your visit, take a look at the COVID-19 Update: Guidelines for Researchers, page, which will be updated regularly.

For more on how to use the collections, click here.

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U of R professor mails science-themed kits to incoming STEM students

When biology professor Shannon Jones realized the global pandemic would prevent her from bringing students to campus this summer for the University of Richmond’s signature URISE program experience, she figured out a way to send science to them.

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When biology professor Shannon Jones realized the global pandemic would prevent her from bringing students to campus this summer for the University of Richmond’s signature URISE program experience, she figured out a way to send science to them.

From beakers and pipettes to summer reading material, Jones, longtime coordinator of the URISE program, put together 24 kits containing everything a young scientist might need to begin exploring their fields of study.

URISE, which stands for the University of Richmond Integrated Science Experience and is a part of UR’s Integrated Inclusive Science Program, is a pre-first-year program that focuses on skill development, provides authentic research experiences, and builds a community of support for selected students ahead of starting classes in the fall.

The program received the 2018 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine and has been modeled after at other institutions of higher learning.

“These students are from all around the world and many represent backgrounds that have been historically underrepresented in STEM fields,” said Jones. “Our summer program is so important in beginning to introduce them to our science programs, the lab, each other, and their faculty, and we wanted to figure out a way to still have an enriching experience.”

Jones and additional science faculty are also hosting virtual sessions with the incoming first-year students out of their labs, and their efforts have paid off.

URISE student Daisy Brooks said, “The program has been an amazing opportunity with lots of great people. Even though there are some obvious barriers, such as not being able to collaborate in person, I think completing the sessions virtually has been a great way to get to know new people — building connections with other students and faculty before arriving on campus and making it less daunting.”

Incoming student Christopher Torres echoed those sentiments. “At the beginning when we were introduced to the tools in the kit I thought that it was a great idea because I could participate in the activities from home, and they were also very informative and a way to tie the lesson together at the end of the day,” said Torres. “It was also a great way to conduct experiments at home similar to the ones we learned in the sessions.”

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Check out these summer reading tips, part of HCPS’ ‘Summer Reading Kick-Off’

“During these unprecedented times, it’s more important than ever to stay connected,” said Shannon Hyman, HCPS library services specialist. “This summer, Virginia authors, illustrators, and community partners are joining with our school librarians to challenge our students to stay connected through reading. All activities are optional, engaging, and designed to encourage learners to read widely all summer long.”

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Henrico County Public Schools’ “Summer Reading Kick-Off” aims to build students’ reading skills – and encourage fun – all summer long. At three interactive webpages for HCPS elementary, middle, and high school students, you’ll find reading resources, activities, and tips for keeping your students engaged this summer.

The colorful interactive summer reading pages are available by going to www.henricoschools.us and looking under “Hot Topics” or at https://sites.google.com/henrico.k12.va.us/mockupedflix/summer-reading. The page also features a video welcome to HCPS’ summer program, featuring 15 Virginia authors and illustrators, as well as HCPS community partners.

Students can click and explore as they navigate the reading resources and activities appropriate for their school level. The tropical “Elementary Island” page features an explorable beach resort, the middle school page resembles a comfortable hangout for tweens, and the high school site, based on a day at the park, enables students to select useful reading apps on a virtual cell phone. Each page features a video tour by an HCPS librarian.

The sites include student “launch boards” with activities such as reading a cookbook and making a recipe (elementary), making a stop-motion video based on a book (middle school), and drafting a resume (high school). Students can explore ways to find great reads, take part in virtual book clubs, hear audiobook talks, and more.

“During these unprecedented times, it’s more important than ever to stay connected,” said Shannon Hyman, HCPS library services specialist. “This summer, Virginia authors, illustrators, and community partners are joining with our school librarians to challenge our students to stay connected through reading. All activities are optional, engaging, and designed to encourage learners to read widely all summer long.”

How can you encourage your student to read? These tips from HCPS librarians and Library Services Department staff members can help:

  • Read aloud together with your student every day, at every age.
  • Borrow audiobooks and listen as a family.
  • Opt outside. Bring your book, read on your device, or download an audiobook and enjoy on a walk.
  • Pick up some great magazines to enjoy in the car, at the pool or under a tree! Magazines are gateways to other reading materials and foster visual literacy.
  • Explore Henrico County Public Libraries’ great programs and activities. Your school librarian will be working with our public libraries to share summer reading activities, lists, and opportunities with all students. Be sure to check out Henrico County Public Library’s summer reading program, at henricolibrary.org/summerreading.
  • Remember, if you want your student to read, give them ample opportunities to see YOU reading, too!

For more summer reading tips, go to https://sites.google.com/henrico.k12.va.us/mockupedflix/summer-reading and click on “Printable Summer Reading Overview Page.”

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