Richmond Public Schools will need an additional $150 million over five years to pay for its plan to turn around the ailing system.
On Monday, the Richmond School Board was presented with the cost estimate for the first time — three months after board members approved a strategic plan for the school district without knowing the cost.
“A quality education is expensive,” Superintendent Jason Kamras said.
He added that he expects cuts to be made to help pay for the plan’s implementation: “If it’s not helping kids, it’s not a good usage of our dollars.”
Said School Board Chairwoman Dawn Page: “We need to tighten our belt to be more efficient as we make this ask.”
The plan’s average cost of $30 million a year represents a roughly 10 percent increase to the district’s current operating budget.
RPS has little in reserve heading into the next budget cycle. The projected cost of strategic plan implementation for the next fiscal year is $13.8 million, and it only goes up.
The cost of the five-year plan increases at least $12 million every year before totaling $58.1 million in 2022-23, the plan’s final year and when Kamras has said every school in the district will meet the state’s accreditation standards.
Here’s how the cost of the plan breaks down:
Teaching and learning, $91.85 million: With a price tag topping $90 million, the cost of implementing the first part of the strategic plan is far and away the highest.
Like the other areas, this cost increases over the plan’s five years. Thirty percent of the cost comes from a drastic shakeup in how the district does secondary education, changing three high schools and middle schools into themed schools.
In addition, 40 teachers would be hired to help bring subjects such as world languages, coding, and visual and performing arts to elementary schools.
Staff, $36.68 million: A redesign of the school district’s pay system would cost $26.1 million, the most expensive part of its plan to improve the way teachers and other staff are treated.
The pay redesign includes yearly step increases for teachers, totaling $2 million every year from 2019-20 through 2022-23. The plan includes a proposal to raise teachers’ salaries in the district’s high-priority schools, starting in 2022-23.
School culture, $6.65 million: Increasing the number of mental health and social support positions and adding more nurses in schools would cost $3.5 million.
Partnerships, $3.94 million: The cheapest part of the plan focuses on community partnerships. That priority includes partnership teams in every school ($200,000), teacher home visits ($1.82 million), expanding the Welcome Center for immigrant families ($640,000) and increasing mentoring opportunities ($575,000).
Systems and infrastructure, $10.41 million: The major part of this topic is the construction of new schools in the district. RPS is building three schools already, but included in the strategic plan is the construction of a new George Wythe High School in South Side.
The district currently doesn’t have enough money to build the new high school, but a target open date has been set for fall 2023.