Richmond Public Schools was premature in announcing changes to high school start times for the school year that starts Tuesday.
When the city school system announced earlier this week that most high schools would start 10 minutes earlier because they were previously out of compliance with state standards, the division said the School Board didn’t have to vote on the changes.
That was wrong.
School Board policy states that the board oversees the start time of school and must vote on changes, like it did in 2015 when it pushed the high school start time back to 8 a.m.
The school day at all but two of the division’s high schools will still start at 7:50 a.m., as previously announced, come Tuesday, with a School Board vote on the changes planned during its meeting that night.
With no formal adoption before the start of school, schools will technically be out of compliance with board policy when the day starts at 7:50 a.m. It will still end at 2:45 p.m.
Before the new start times, high schools in the division hadn’t been keeping students in class long enough to meet state course requirements needed to graduate, officials from the Virginia Department of Education found.
Superintendent Jason Kamras apologized to board members for the mistake.
“Had I known that, I of course would have brought it to you before approving any modifications,” he said in an email to the group Thursday.
School Board Chairwoman Dawn Page said the board does not plan to call an emergency meeting over the Labor Day weekend to approve the changes. When asked about the changes Wednesday, Page did not raise issue with the board not approving them.
RPS parent Betsy Milburn, who previously exposed the district’s problems properly calculating grade point averages, on Wednesday raised concerns about the School Board not voting on the changes.
“I am questioning the process,” she said. “It seems to me that school board should be approving start times as per the school board policy.”
The School Board is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the School Board Room on the 17th floor of City Hall.
Start times aren’t the only aspect of the school day that’s likely to be contentious at Tuesday night’s meeting.
The RPS administration notified teachers Wednesday that once a week, starting in late September, teachers will have 90-minute professional development sessions at the end of the school day, a proposal that’s frustrated teachers in its content and in its timing.
“We’re a little concerned to put it mildly,” said Richmond Education Association President Ramon Moore and Vice President Bradley Mock. “We should be a part of those conversations.”
Mock said REA wasn’t aware of the details of the plan before it was sent out. The union plans on organizing teachers to attend Tuesday’s meeting.