RICHMOND, Va. —Thanks to an innovative partnership with Carter Mountain Orchard, Publix, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, Apple Inc., and several community leaders, Richmond Public Schools (RPS) announced plans to donate 7,000 apples to local teachers in lieu of increasing the education budget this fall.
Their decision comes as a response to growing criticism over the state of schools in the city. In 2017, only 18 of 44 Richmond public schools met the minimum quality of learning standards to make accreditation. During a recent School Board hearing at George Mason Elementary, teachers described falling ceiling tiles, natural gas leaks, faulty plumbing, and rodent infestations. Shortly thereafter, a study found that at least two local schools have lead in their drinking water.
Although citizens have pleaded for additional funding and new facilities to address these problems, city officials have instead responded with numerous bushels of apples. “Money unfortunately doesn’t grow on trees, but thankfully, apples do,” the statement further read.
The Richmond School Board has partnered with Carter Mountain Orchard, coordinating shipments of surplus apples directly to local teachers in their schools.
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Publix will augment the gift, offering customers the option to donate an apple to a local teacher at checkout, and will provide access to produce trucks at a reduced rate for apple transport. The Virginia Dental Association will sponsor truck drivers, and J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College culinary school students will sort the produce and remove any bad apples.
The culinary students will also select three first-rate examples of perfect Golden Delicious apples. The School Board will then present the golden apples to teachers who have persevered in Richmond’s most challenging classrooms, while at the same time handing them numerous job offers and incentives to work at private and charter schools.
In an effort to combat the growing digital divide for RPS students, corporate sponsor, Apple Inc., will also run an exclusive offer. For the month of November, public school administrators can bring outdated and broken electronics to the Apple Store at Short Pump Town Center to exchange for additional Carter Mountain apples. “Most of these schools just don’t have the hardware for a workable computer lab,” store manager Alexis Stone explained. “This way at least they’ll have fresh apples.”
Many parents and teachers feel that 7,000 apples are just not enough to help improve the schools’ conditions. PTAs from multiple school districts have formed an anti-apple group called “Parents Against Apples” and are attempting to get their custom hashtag, #WTFApples, trending on Twitter.
An anti-apple protest is also scheduled for Sunday afternoon at Jefferson Park.
Disappointed by the backlash, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who donated personal funds to cover the costs to sort the bulk produce, told reporters, “If the teachers don’t want the apples, they don’t have to take them. It’s their choice.”
“Plus, these are the ripest Granny Smiths we could find,” DeVos continued. “They could use them for cooking, classroom learning activities, and all sorts of things. They really should be more grateful about this.”
The plan is expected to be a success and has already gained the attention of nearby institutions. At the time of reporting, Virginia Commonwealth University purchased and immediately bulldozed a nearby building on West Grace Street for the purpose of growing apple trees to use in lieu of Christmas bonuses.
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