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HCPS will phase in an in-person learning option, new safety protocols, to accompany fully virtual option

Henrico County Public Schools will offer expanded in-person learning options and enhanced safety protocols, to be phased in beginning with younger elementary students starting Nov. 30 and concluding with high school students in February.

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Henrico County Public Schools will offer expanded in-person learning options and enhanced safety protocols, to be phased in beginning with younger elementary students starting Nov. 30 and concluding with high school students in February. HCPS families will also have the option to continue using a fully virtual approach for students. Students choosing the in-person option will be in school buildings four days a week and learn virtually from home on Wednesdays.

The expansion of in-person learning will be accompanied by enhanced safety protocols in school facilities and buses. The School Board voted 4-1 to adopt the plan after hearing recommendations from the HCPS Health Committee and Superintendent Amy Cashwell, as well as staff and public comments, at its Thursday work session.

Implementation of the phased-in approach will be dependent on continued analysis of health and safety data and the recommendation of public health experts.

To see videos from the work session and meeting, and to see answers to frequently asked questions about the in-person option, go to https://henricoschools.us/returntoschoolplan/.

Town hall meetings scheduled

The school division will hold two informational “town hall” meetings next week for HCPS staff members and HCPS student households in order to discuss the plan and answer questions submitted in advance. The meetings will be conducted virtually to accommodate potentially thousands of participants while prioritizing safety.

  • HCPS Virtual Staff Town Hall Meeting on In-Person Option (details being communicated internally to HCPS employees)
    • Tuesday, Oct. 27

Phased-in approach for in-person learning

The in-person schedule will be phased in over several months starting with elementary school students, who often face the most challenges with virtual learning:

  • Monday, Nov. 30: Grades pre-K, K, 1 and 2 would have the option to return to in-person learning.
  • Monday, Dec. 7: Grades 3, 4 and 5 would have the option to return to in-person learning.
  • Jan. 4-8: Learning would be virtual for all students during the week after Winter Break.
  • Monday, Feb. 1 (start of second semester): Grades 6 and 9 would have the option to return to in-person learning.
  • Thursday, Feb. 4: Grades 7, 8; 10, 11 and 12 would have the option to return to in-person learning.

School day

The five-day schedule for fully virtual students will continue (with an abbreviated schedule on Wednesdays.) Students choosing the in-person option would attend school four days a week, and would learn virtually on Wednesdays to allow for additional deep cleaning of schools as well as teacher planning:

  • In-person students will be in school buildings four days per week: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Virtual “Wellness Wednesdays” will be characterized by:
  • Additional deep cleaning of schools.
  • Two hours of teacher-led virtual learning.
  • Additional independent student learning time.
  • Academic and social/emotional support.
  • Teacher planning and professional learning time.

Risk-mitigation measures

HCPS will adopt a number of risk-mitigation protocols recommended by the HCPS Health Committee:

  • Using 6-foot distancing for classroom seating.
  • Maintaining “cohort” groupings of students as much as possible.
  • Creating one-way traffic patterns in school hallways.
  • Adjusting the secondary master schedule to stagger and extend transition times.
  • Continue a host of specific safety improvements underway, including staff training, cleaning, use of masks, three-sided protective guards for all desks, HVAC air flushing and other measures.

School visitors will be by appointment only and will be limited to main offices. Large-group gatherings and field trips will not be held. Random temperature checks of students and staff will be conducted in schools. Secondary students will be assigned to “lunch pods” of other students for meals. To see safety measures the school division continues to implement, go to https://henricoschools.us/healthupdate/preparing-for-a-return.

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Night shift: Student safety ambassadors provide a resource for the VCU community after dark

The ambassadors, part of the university’s transition to a more equitable public safety model, provide assistance when people need help but don’t need to contact law enforcement.

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If you’re looking for Virginia Commonwealth University sophomore Ayanna Farmer-Lawrence in the evenings, you’ll most likely find her around the Compass wearing a bright-yellow vest.

Farmer-Lawrence is a newly hired student safety ambassador for the VCU Police Department — and her vest is both a uniform and visual identifier for VCU community members.

This past summer, the university announced a plan for police reform initiatives, including workforce realignment and the hiring of non-sworn, unarmed employees to serve as resources on campus when members of the VCU community need assistance, but do not feel compelled to contact law enforcement.

Carly Jackson wearing a safety vest.
Carly Jackson models a designated, uniform vest during her shift. (Kevin Morley, University Marketing)

John Venuti, VCU’s associate vice president of public safety and chief of police, said with safety and well-being as the focus, a student may be a better alternative option for needs such as asking for directions, answering questions about transportation, working at events and walking people to their cars at night.

“The safety ambassadors will be present in places with high volumes of students, such as outside the University Student Commons and the Compass,” Venuti said. “They will predominately work at night because in the spring 2020 perception of safety survey, students told us they feel less safe at night.”

The three safety ambassadors received 40 hours of training and are also tasked with reporting safety concerns they come across during their shifts. In their first two nights working, they reported to police about damaged property, a traffic light failure and a fire at a business on West Broad Street.

Farmer-Lawrence, a homeland security and criminal justice major in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, said the part-time position coincides with her goal of becoming a special agent for the FBI. She was drawn to become a safety ambassador to learn from police, build relationships, network and be ready for internships or employment opportunities upon graduation.

“I thought it was a good idea to be that person that [people] can go to if they have a problem, but don’t want to go to the police directly,” Farmer-Lawrence said. “It’s a good idea given what’s going on in society currently.”

Venuti said he looks forward to hearing feedback from community members about the new program and plans to expand the number of student safety ambassadors, and their designated locations, in spring 2021.

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University of Richmond Partners with Richmond Public Schools on No Loan Program

“The No Loan Program gives our students the remarkable opportunity to graduate with a degree from a world-class institution without taking on any debt,” said RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras. “We are incredibly grateful to President Crutcher, and the entire University of Richmond team, for this generous commitment to our students.”

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The University of Richmond has announced, in a first-of-its-kind partnership, it will meet the full demonstrated financial need for all RPS graduates who qualify to attend with grant aid — not with loans — up to the full cost of attendance at UR.

“We know that the thought of taking out loans may create anxiety for families, particularly among first-generation students,” said University of Richmond President Ronald A. Crutcher. “The University of Richmond and the City of Richmond want to retain our best students in the region, and the No Loan Program will further that effort.”

“The No Loan Program gives our students the remarkable opportunity to graduate with a degree from a world-class institution without taking on any debt,” said RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras. “We are incredibly grateful to President Crutcher, and the entire University of Richmond team, for this generous commitment to our students.”

“The University of Richmond has been a wonderful partner for RPS over the years,” said School Board Chairwoman Linda Owen. “I am thrilled to see the collaboration continue in this way and I can’t wait to see the next generation of RPS students who become Richmond Spiders.”

The University of Richmond and Richmond Public Schools already partner on a number of programs. UR offers RPS specific admission and financial aid workshops. UR Bonner Scholars and students from the Jepson School of Leadership Studies’ “Justice and Civil Society” class volunteer with RVA Future Centers. Also, the student-led UR Mentoring Project brings UR students in to mentor students in the Armstrong Leadership Program.

UR also offers Richmond’s Promise to Virginia, which provides full tuition, room, and board grants to all Virginians who come from families with incomes below $60,000.

“We hope local students will consider Richmond and know that they will find the diverse community here that is found at other top universities, said Stephanie Dupaul, vice president for Enrollment Management. “RPS students who attend Richmond will find that staying local doesn’t mean they only have local experiences. Our financial aid awards are only part of the story. We also guarantee funding for faculty-mentored research and internships; we ensure that students are able to study abroad; and we provide the pathways for students to successful careers and graduate school.”

UR students also benefit from the partnership. “Just as students from Richmond benefit from the geographically diverse student population at the University, students from around the nation and world have much to learn from our hometown students,” Crutcher said.

Over the last decade, UR has invested more than $11 million in University-funded aid to graduates of Richmond Public Schools and the City of Richmond-located magnet schools.

“I am so pleased that we can expand our financial aid programs to make it possible for more RPS students to graduate as Spiders,” Crutcher said.

Current RPS seniors are encouraged to apply by Jan. 1 for fall semester 2021.

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Here come the Mavericks: New nickname, chapter for Douglas Freeman High School

When Douglas Freeman High School competitors next take the field or court, it will be as the Mavericks. John Marshall, principal, announced the new nickname — along with a new logo — in a message Thursday to students, families and staff members. The choice was the favorite of respondents in a survey of four options, and was selected by the school’s administration, in tandem with student leaders.

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When Douglas Freeman High School competitors next take the field or court, it will be as the Mavericks. John Marshall, principal, announced the new nickname — along with a new logo — in a message Thursday to students, families and staff members. The choice was the favorite of respondents in a survey of four options, and was selected by the school’s administration, in tandem with student leaders.

The final contenders — Mavericks, Pioneers, Trailblazers and United — were announced in October by a committee made up of members of the school community. The group had help from VCU’s nationally recognized Brandcenter, which includes Douglas Freeman alumni. The Brandcenter also helped develop the logo for the final selection, a stylized “M” above the words “Freeman Mavericks.” The new branding will join the school’s interlocking “DSF” logo, which will remain in use.

“After a careful and intentional process to find a new school nickname, symbol and mascot, we are overjoyed to announce that we are moving forward together, starting today,” said Marshall in a message to the school community.

Marshall noted that the nickname describes the school’s independent spirit and is consistent with the school’s core values of excellence, pride, intensity, family, diversity and tradition.

“We are free-thinkers and forward thinkers,” Marshall said. “We challenge the status quo to make the world a better place.”

To see a video featuring students and staff members talking about the selection, go to www.freemanmascot.info/announcement.

The school will share details soon about a planned “spirit-wear swap” where students can trade in Rebels gear for items with the new nickname and logo.

Marshall also announced in August the creation of the “Freeman Forward Fund” in partnership with the Henrico Education Foundation. The fund will build school culture and support long-term efforts to promote inclusivity and innovation. Members of the public can donate to the fund by going to https://bit.ly/33oNrqu.

The school announced in August that, after a review process that included public input, it was retiring its “Rebels” nickname and would seek a more inclusive nickname and mascot. That process drew more than 2,000 comments, including around 1,500 responses through an online form. The input also included emails, social media posts, handwritten notes, voicemails, videos and an online panel discussion on the topic.

While the school had used the Rebels name since it opened in 1954, it has not used a visual mascot for many years, instead opting for the “DSF” logo.

The school is named for Douglas Southall Freeman, a Richmond historian, author and journalist. While Freeman won Pulitzer Prizes for his biographies of both Robert E. Lee and George Washington, the school’s original mascot was likely inspired by his Confederate subjects.

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