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RPS Cancels Last Two Days of School and Statement by Superintendent Kamaras

Most Graduation ceremonies will restart next week, with Open High’s ceremony this Friday.

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Dear #RPSStrong Family,

As you have likely heard by now, the two individuals killed in yesterday’s tragedy were Shawn Smith, a Huguenot HS senior, and his step-father, Lorenzo Smith. Please join me in expressing our deepest condolences to Ms. Smith; yesterday, she lost her son and her husband. As superintendent – and as a father, husband, and son – I grieve today with Ms. Smith and her entire family.

I did not know Shawn, but I shook his hand and wished him congratulations about 20 minutes before he died. Those who did know him, like Kevin Olds, a former assistant principal at Huguenot and now the principal at Wythe HS, described him as “bubbly” and “the life of the party.” Mr. Olds shared the following reflection with me.

When Shawn started ninth grade, he struggled a bit with the structure of high school. As a result, he often found his way to my office. I’m grateful for that because, over time, we formed a strong bond.

Shawn had a joyous and infectious smile. His sense of humor made him full of life, laughter, and all things fun. He was also a very bright young man who could master any textbook.

At times, Shawn wanted to give up, and he considered dropping out of school. But the safety net of the village would not allow that. In addition to his loving parents, a whole team at Huguenot supported him – especially Ms. Harris and Mr. Christmas, school counselors, and Ms. Wilson, school social worker. Because of their efforts and Shawn’s diligence, he graduated yesterday. I am utterly heartbroken that his life ended just minutes later.

If you wish to financially support the Smith family in this very difficult time, please consider donating to the RPS Trauma Healing Response Fund. Established by the RPS Education Foundation, this fund will manage donations to aid RPS victims of gun violence and their families.

Additionally, if you have any information about the shooting, please contact the Richmond Police Department at (804) 780-6461 or Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000

School Closure – In light of yesterday’s tragedy, and out of an abundance of caution, I am closing school for students for our last day and a half (Thursday, June 8, and Friday, June 9). All school events, including moving on ceremonies and end of year celebrations, are also canceled.

I recognize this will be very upsetting to many students, families, and staff. However, given how on edge our community is right now, and given that three more RPS students were shot last night, I felt this step was necessary to safeguard the RPS family. Thank you for your grace and understanding.
To process yesterday’s events as a community and to complete close-out tasks, all RPS staff are to report to work tomorrow according to their normal schedule. Pease contact your supervisor if you have any questions.

Though we won’t have school for students tomorrow, families and students can still come by to drop of technologypick up grab-and-go breakfast and lunch, and retrieve medications and other student items. Be on the lookout for school-specific instructions from your principal. If any family needs help getting to their child’s school, please call our Family Support Line at (804) 780-6195.

Remaining High School Graduation Ceremonies – Class of 2023 commencement ceremonies will take place next week inside our schools. See below for the schedule. Details about tickets and livestreaming will be provided tomorrow. Please note the following additional security measures:

  • No bags of any kind will be permitted inside the school (no exceptions).
  • No flowers, balloons, or amplified devices of any kind will be permitted inside the school.
  • Everyone will be subject to searches.
Revised 2023 Graduation Schedule
  • Open High School – Friday, June 9, 9 am, at Richmond Community High School
  • Franklin Military Academy – Monday, June 12, 9 am, at Franklin Military Academy
  • Armstrong High School – Monday, June 12, 11:30 am, at Armstrong High School
  • Thomas Jefferson High School – Monday, June 12, 2 pm, at Thomas Jefferson High School
  • John Marshall High School – Tuesday, June 13, 9 am, at John Marshall High School
  • George Wythe High School – Tuesday, June 13, 12 pm, at John Marshall High School

Mental Health Resources – If you or someone you know needs mental health support, please access the resources below. There is absolutely no shame in doing so. I have accessed them, and I urge you to do the same.

  • The RPS Crisis Team will be providing virtual support to students and families from 11 am – 4 pm and 5 pm – 7 pm. You can access the support through Google Meet.
  • Students who need emergency mental health support should call the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority at (804) 819-4100 or the ChildSavers Immediate Response line at (804) 305-2420 (or send a text to 741741).
  • An additional counseling resource available to students and families is Challenge Discovery Projects. Their counselors can be reached by calling (804) 643-0002.
  • The Latinos in Virginia Empowerment Center will be open all day for any Latino/Hispanic individuals affected by the shooting. Their 24/7 hotline number is (804) 728-0048.
  • The Trauma Healing Response Network is a coalition of grassroots, community-based organizations and mental health partners that provide support services to families and communities impacted by gun violence. The network can also facilitate the distribution of emergency relief funds to help those in crisis. For more information, email [email protected].
  • RPS employees in need of emergency support should contact the Cigna 24/7 crisis line at (833) ME-CIGNA (833-632-4462). Additional counseling and support services are also available through the Cigna Employee Assistance (EAP) program by calling (800) 544-6931.
  • If you are looking for resources to help you talk to your children about this latest tragedy, please see this document from the National Council on Family Relations.

With great appreciation and love,

Jason

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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.