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Remote learning could be extended to end of school year for Richmond students

It would cost about $900,000 to continue the transitional learning program for elementary and secondary students in Richmond.
Anneke Wijtkamp's son Joel Sagar is in the transitional learning program because he has virus-induced asthma. Photo submitted

Richmond students learning at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic might continue doing so until the end of the school year, despite an earlier decision by the board of education to wrap up the program by spring.

On Wednesday, the board will consider a recommendation by school district staff to allow the more than 2,500 students in the transitional program to continue this format to the tune of $900,000.

The original intention was for students to return to classrooms throughout the school year, but Scott Robinson, district superintendent, pointed out in a report to the board “a relatively large number of parents have continued to express concern about having their children return to school and have not chosen to have their child return to in-person learning.”

Currently, about 2,200 students are in the elementary transitional program, about 19 per cent of all elementary students.

Robinson said there is “significant concern” about the mental health of students who haven’t been in school since last March. Also, students whose first language isn’t English make up a large portion of these transitional elementary students, it is “challenging” to help these students remotely compared to face-to-face.

Furthermore, Robinson pointed out, some teachers say being responsible for both remote and in-person students has a negative impact on how much in-person students can be supported.

The cost of continuing the elementary program is estimated at $600,000 while the cost of the secondary program is pegged at $300,000.

There are about 300 secondary students in the transitional program, taught by Richmond Virtual School teachers.

The money to extend these programs will be reallocated from the federal return-to-school money.

There have been about 95 exposures to COVID-19 in Richmond schools since September, but there are no known transmissions of the virus within the schools, Robinson said in his report.

A special board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday (March 10) to consider extending this program.