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Richmond Public Schools Announces Steps to Contain COVID-19

At this time all local public schools are operating as normal but Superintendent Kamras is asking everyone to prepare now for the possibility of canceling school if they have confirmed COVID-19 cases from students and/or staff.

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Amid swirling rumors of infected students, the Superintendent of Richmond Public Schools, Jason Kamras, has released a statement outlining the steps the organization is taking to prevent wide-spread infection among the students, staff, and faculty.

The most significant step is the cancellation of school-sponsored and division-sponsored travel outside of the Richmond area for both students and staff.

The full statement is below and includes helpful links to resources.

I’m reaching out with additional updates regarding our response to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. As I shared previously, we are coordinating closely with the Richmond City Health Department to guide our efforts, and I am personally in touch with Director Dr. Danny Avula on a daily basis. I’m grateful for Dr. Avula’s steady leadership during this uncertain time and for the Health Department staff who met last week with all of our nurses to provide updates and answer questions.
As I also shared last week, we have directed principals and custodians to ensure that “high-touch” surfaces – such as door knobs, light switches, and desks – are cleaned on a frequent basis with CDC-approved products. Additionally, we have reiterated how important it is that our bathrooms are fully stocked with soap and paper towel at all times. I encourage students, families, and staff to email me directly at [email protected] if you identify any issues with the availability of supplies at your school.
Updates
Now that there are a number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Virginia, we are taking additional steps to protect the health and safety of our students and staff.
  • First, effective tomorrow, March 12, we are cancelling all school-sponsored and division-sponsored travel outside of the Richmond area for both students and staff (field trips, athletic events, conferences, etc.). We will lift this ban once we feel confident that the potential threat to students and staff has abated.
  • Third, we are asking families to prepare now for the possibility of cancelling school if we have confirmed COVID-19 cases from students and/or staff. Out of an abundance of caution, we are already developing virtual learning guidance and examining different ways of supporting families who rely on the school meals program due to food insecurity. For now, all RPS schools are open and operating on a normal schedule.
  • Fourth, at Monday’s School Board meeting, I will be requesting the authority to reallocate $500,000 from our budget towards supplies and services dedicated to preparing for and responding to COVID-19.
  • Fifth, I am in daily contact with my counterparts in Chesterfield, Henrico, and Hanover in an effort to coordinate our response as much as possible for the region’s students and families.
Resources
Please see below for several resources that can help answer any questions you have about COVID-19 and its impact at the national, state, and local levels. The last item on the list is an excellent resource to help children understand the coronavirus and the disease it causes.
Reminders
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and help young children do the same. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Wash your hands especially after coughing and sneezing, before and after caring for an ill person, and before preparing foods and before eating.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Avoid touching your eyesnose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact (such as kissing, sharing cups, or sharing eating utensils) with people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick, except when you need to get medical care.
Thank you for your partnership as we continue to prepare for and respond to this evolving situation. As Superintendent and as a parent, nothing is more important to me than the health and safety of our students and staff. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to email me at [email protected].

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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.

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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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