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Governor Signs Executive Order Lifting Mask Mandate, RPS and Others Plan to Keep Masks in Schools

Covid-19 is still here and masks are one tool in the arsenal to prevent sickness and in some cases death.

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In 2020, with support from both sides of the aisle, the legislature signed a law requiring schools to follow CDC guidance. That guidance currently recommends universal mask-wearing in schools. The CDC can’t “require” any measure but leaves that up to the schools. This weekend the new Republican Governor Youngkin signed an Executive Order stating that parents must be allowed to decide whether their child wears a mask in school, regardless of federal or district-level rules. This new rule will go into place on January 24th.

Sixteen school districts including Richmond and Henrico have stated their intention to keep mask mandates in place.

  • Arlington
  • Montgomery
  • Fairfax
  • Loudoun
  • Henrico
  • Richmond
  • Alexandria
  • Prince William
  • Roanoke
  • Pulaski
  • Charlottesville
  • Albemarle
  • Norfolk
  • Chesapeake
  • Fredersicksburg
  • Nelson

RPS Superintendent Jason Kamaras issued the following statement yesterday. The statement also touches on another Executive Order that is attempting to fight the non-existent boogeyman that is Critical Race Theory.

Dear #RPSStrong Family,

Normally, I wouldn’t be sending an RPS Direct this evening, as we’re closed today. However, in light of recent events at the state level, I felt it was important to reach out.

Masks – As I shared via social media this weekend, RPS will maintain its 100% mask-wearing policy for all students, staff, and families. The science is clear: masks are safe and effective. Per the CDC“Experimental and epidemiologic data support community masking to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2…The relationship between source control and wearer protection is likely complementary and possibly synergistic, so that individual benefit increases with increasing community mask use.”

Despite the Governor’s Executive Order #2, we believe we have the legal authority to maintain our mandate. Senate Bill 1303, signed into law last year, stipulates that Virginia school divisions must offer in-person instruction, and: “[P]rovide such in-person instruction in a manner in which it adheres, to the maximum extent practicable, to any currently applicable mitigation strategies for early childhood care and education programs and elementary and secondary schools to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 that have been provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” 

Therefore, we are actually mandated by Virginia law to follow CDC guidance, and to do so “to the maximum extent practicable.” Given the CDC’s clear position on mask-wearing in schools, our charge is clear: maintain our mandate. Towards that end, School Board Members Burke and Doerr will be introducing a resolution to reaffirm our 100% mask-wearing requirement at tomorrow’s School Board meeting. 

Updated Isolation and Quarantine Guidance – One of the key topics that came up last night during the town hall hosted by Chair Harris-Muhammed and Vice-Chair Gibson was confusion over isolation and quarantine protocols, given evolving guidance from the CDC. To clarify matters, we have updated our guidance in collaboration with the Richmond City Health District, and will be implementing it starting tomorrow. If you have any questions after reviewing the updated protocols, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

“Divisive Concepts” – The Governor’s Executive Order #1 bans the teaching of critical race theory and other “divisive” concepts. First, as has been widely discussed in the news media over the past year, critical race theory is a graduate-level framework that’s not taught in K-12 schools. As for the far more nebulous prohibition against teaching divisive concepts, all I can say is this: At RPS, we will continue to honestly study the fact that the Commonwealth of Virginia was literally created on the backs of enslaved Africans, and we will continue to help our students understand the connection between that history and the injustices that still grip our community today – in education, housing, healthcare, the legal system, and more.

To quote Dr. King in honor of today’s celebration: “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.” That’s what we’ll continue to do no matter how painful the truth of our past may be. It’s only by fostering a deep understanding of how we arrived at the present will we equip our students to create a more just and equitable future.

With great appreciation,
Jason

Yesterday the Virginia Chapter of Pediatricians spoke out in favor of keeping masks in school

 

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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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Education

Field Day RVA event benefiting Higher Achievement returns after two-year hiatus

Teams of five to nine people register to compete in field day events, including water balloon toss, relay races, capture the flag, corn hole, and tug of war, as well as enjoy prizes, music, beer, and food trucks.

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Field Day RVA, a community fundraising event for the nonprofit organization Higher Achievement, presented by BrownGreer, is set to take place on Saturday, May 14, 2022 at 11 a.m. The event took a two-year pause due to the pandemic and has returned to the Richmond community this year.

The day-long event takes place at the Bon Secours Training Center, formerly known as the Washington Redskins Training Camp, located at 2401 West Leigh Street. Teams of five to nine people register to compete in field day events, including water balloon toss, relay races, capture the flag, corn hole, and tug of war, as well as enjoy prizes, music, beer, and food trucks. Previous years have been in attendance by Mayor Levar Stoney, Dominion Energy, ABC News teams, and community members all throughout Richmond.

“We were disappointed when our 2020 and 2021 events had to be postponed, but could not be more thrilled to be back this year. Higher Achievement Richmond has profound impacts on the middle school scholars within Richmond, and this event is a great way to support our mission,” said Katey Comerford, Executive Director for Higher Achievement Richmond.

To attend Field Day RVA 2022, individuals can register at fielddayrva.eventbrite.com.

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HCPS students to get insight into Henrico’s government, school operations during 63rd annual Student Government Day

Henrico County high school students will get a firsthand look at their county government and school system operations when Student Government Day returns April 27-28 following a two-year break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Henrico County high school students will get a firsthand look at their county government and school system operations when Student Government Day returns April 27-28 following a two-year break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the 63rd Student Government Day, 93 students from Henrico’s nine public high schools, The Academy at Virginia Randolph and the Henrico Virtual Academy are scheduled to shadow elected and appointed officials – including members of the Board of Supervisors and the School Board, county manager, Henrico County Public Schools superintendent, constitutional officers and judges – to learn about their roles and responsibilities.

“Henrico County is thrilled to bring back Student Government Day after a two-year pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” County Manager John A. Vithoulkas said. “This event allows many of our bright high school students to immerse themselves in the issues and decisions that impact our residents and businesses every day. It’s a proud tradition that highlights the tremendous partnership between our general government and Henrico County Public Schools.”

Student Government Day was first held in 1958 and was long supported by the Kiwanis clubs of North Richmond, Tuckahoe and Greater Richmond. This year’s event will begin with an investiture at 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 27 in the auditorium of Hermitage High School, 8301 Hungary Spring Road. With the help of Henrico’s Circuit judges, 33 students will recite the oaths of office as if they were being sworn into their positions.

Students who are matched with general government officials will report to work at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, April 28. The day will include opportunities to learn how various departments function and will conclude with a simulated work session of the Board of Supervisors at 12:30 p.m. in the County Manager’s Conference Room and a simulated regular meeting of the Board of Supervisors at 2 p.m. in the Board Room of the Henrico Government Center, 4301 E. Parham Road.

In the meetings, students will have opportunities to discuss and debate local issues as if they were officially in the roles of elected and appointed officials.

The Board of Supervisors will take no official action as part of its participation in Student Government Day.

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Maggie Walker Governor’s School senior wins National Honor Society Scholarship Award 

Chosen from nearly 10,000 applicants, Pooja Muthuraj, a senior at Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School from Richmond, Virginia, has been selected as the National Winner of the esteemed $10,625 National Honor Society (NHS) Service Scholarship.

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Chosen from nearly 10,000 applicants, Pooja Muthuraj, a senior at Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School from Richmond, Virginia, has been selected as the National Winner of the esteemed $10,625 National Honor Society (NHS) Service Scholarship. NHS is supported by its parent organization, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).

“I am so grateful for this recognition and for this opportunity to have a seat at the table with the students and educators currently creating the future,” Pooja Muthuraj said. “This scholarship means the world to me, and I have so much optimism for what is to come. Thank you to everyone who has made this possible. Seriously, thank you so much.”

When Pooja Muthuraj learned about how some girls lack access to menstrual hygiene products, she established a local chapter of PERIOD, an international organization dedicated to ending period poverty and stigma around the world. Through this organization, Pooja and other students lobbied for two statewide bills mandating that public schools provide free period products in their restrooms, and both bills passed in March 2020.

Pooja also co-founded her own nonprofit, Teen Polytx, which seeks to bridge divides between high school students from different sides of the political aisle by fostering communication and encouraging conversations about pressing societal issues. Through this group, she moderates monthly discussions open to high school students from across the state, and the organization has connected over 60 high school students through meaningful discourse.

NHS is awarding $2 million in scholarships to 600 high school seniors this year. For the first time ever, four finalists were awarded a $10,625 scholarship for embodying the four pillars of NHS membership: scholarship, service, leadership, and character. The other recipients of these awards are: Alyssa Speelman from Ashland, MT for Service; Ethan Sandoval from Pasadena, CA for Character; and Owen Zhang from Bellaire, TX for Leadership. Twenty finalists received $5,625 and Evan Osgood from Loveland, OH earned the top $25,000 NHS Scholarship. Their bios are here.  

“We’re humbled to honor these students’ powerful initiatives that have help their communities in this time of need,” said NASSP CEO Ronn Nozoe. “We need passionate and forward-looking leaders like them who combine their quest of knowledge with service and advocate for systemic change. These winners have outstanding potential, and we’re thrilled to be a part of their journey.” 

The announcement is part of NASSP’s Trailblazing Leadership Week, bringing together the 2021 State Principals of the Year and the NHS Scholarship finalists to celebrate their accomplishments and connect with one another. In addition to the gala, the day began at the U.S. Department of Education where officials met with school and student leaders to discuss the most pressing issues in education. 

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