RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Officials with Richmond Public Schools are telling city council that it will take $620 million to get the system’s facilities working at maximum efficiency. School officials disclosed the number at a school board meeting at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School on Monday.
The woes of Richmond City Schools have been well documented: from a ceiling tile falling on a student at Fairfield Court Elementary School, to the mold problem at Elkhardt Middle School. The question that remains: what is there to do to fix them?
“Building new schools, which is renovating schools, making additions to schools, closing schools, creating efficiencies,” Assistant Superintendent Tommy Kranz said at Monday’s meeting.
If the proposed budget passes, this could mean nearly a complete overhaul of Richmond City Schools. Most schools would see redistricting and several elementary schools would close to develop new schools. There are 25 elementary schools now. This proposal drops that number to 15 or 16 elementary schools. It’s all due to some schools overflowing, while others have hundreds of seats open.
“No one wants to give up his or her classroom if you will, but they have to look at the fact that we are not filling every seat on every level,” said School Board Member Shonda Harris-Muhammed.
Four middle schools would be compacted into two new schools. High schools would also be consolidated, and a new high school building would be built.
“It’s a little too pricey for Richmond and where we are right now, I think with 5000 empty seats, many underutilized school buildings, we need to do the hard work of consolidating schools,” said School Board Member Glen Sturtevant.
Other options include doing nothing, rezoning to address student enrollment, equalizing schools, or simply consolidating.
School Board Member Kim Gray wants the city to approve the first option.
“I’m hopeful and optimistic that the city Council sees it the same way we do, and that the city administration and the mayor also and that we get behind a plan that will get us into the 21st-century,” said Gray.
Board members are still in discussions with City Council about the proposals, but council and the mayor ultimately have the final say.