Debate over rolling out a new curriculum — expected to cost a little more than $1 million — during the coronavirus pandemic featured prominently Thursday during the Richmond School Board’s budget talks.
While some teachers expressed concerns about the timing, others said they were ready to overhaul what materials are taught in a school system that has struggled to move schools to full state accreditation.
Lisa Mitchell, a fourth-grade teacher at William Fox Elementary School, expressed reservations.
“Students will readjust to school and school life only as well as their teachers do,” she said. “To stress teachers with a new curriculum this school year is shortsighted and burdensome for two of the most important stakeholders: teachers and students.”
Superintendent Jason Kamras, however, said the new curriculum is more important than ever during the pandemic, and he cited equity as justification.
“We need really great Tier 1 instruction,” Kamras said. “I believe it’s going to be even more important that we have a set of resources that we know from research are high-quality and will support all learners of all backgrounds.”
He added: “I would stop it if I did not feel, as a teacher, that we had sufficient training and support in place for our teachers. That is a responsibility I take very seriously. The pilot last year was not rolled out the way it should have been.”
Tiawana Giles, the principal of George W. Carver Elementary School, wrote in to say she is all for a new curriculum.
“We are in desperate need for a high-quality resource that supports our overall goal of all children reading on grade level by grade three,” she said. “I believe this would be a major step in the right direction. Carver teachers need resources that they can draw from as they strive to be the best reading teachers in RPS.”
School Board members Cheryl Burke and Dawn Page said they are in favor of the move.
“You can’t get so comfortable with what you have,” Burke said. “Once we as educators get so comfortable with the curriculum, no matter how creative we are, if it’s not what’s expected … our world is constantly moving.”
RPS’ chief academic officer, Tracy Epp, is scheduled to present more details about the planned rollout at the School Board meeting on May 18.