Armstrong High alumni say they’ll fight to keep school open

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Hundreds of students in Richmond could be headed to different schools next fall as officials with Richmond Public Schools are considering closing five schools.

Richmond School Board members are proposing to close Armstrong High School, along with Swansboro, John B. Cary, Overby-Sheppard and Southampton elementary schools. Three specialty schools would also be consolidated into one facility under the proposal.

This is all in effort to make up for a multi-million dollar budget shortfall within Richmond Public Schools. However, that proposal is not sitting well with members of the community who are finding themselves caught in the middle.

“I’m just really disappointed and I’m kind of hurt,” said Armstrong High alum and scholarship committee member, Marilyn Joyner.

Joyner, along with other former Armstrong Wildcats, are speaking out following the news that their alma mater may soon close.

According to Richmond School Board Member, Kim Gray, “we are roughly $17.8 million in the hole and trying to close that gap, and closing schools is a part of that process.”

While Armstrong is the only high school on the list of eight schools potentially on the chopping block, those who went there say the area and its students are being unfairly targeted.”Armstrong has a long history and I think its very unfair that they would target a school in this area. And, I’m wondering why everything is being targeted amongst the poor people.”

“Armstrong has a long history and I think its very unfair that they would target a school in this area,” Armstrong alum and Richmond Tennant Organization President Marilyn Olds said. “And I’m wondering why everything is being targeted amongst the poor people.”

Gray says the proposal to close Armstrong and the other schools come down to enrollment numbers and pressure from the city.

“We’ve been urged by the mayor and city council to right-size the school district,” Gray explained. “It’s an eventual thing that has to take place, but I think it’s a bit unsettling in the time that we have to accomplish that.”

Community Activist James ‘JJ’ Minor, also an Armstrong alum, is rallying for support and is prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure the high school remains open.

“This is not going to be a ‘save our schools’ campaign, this is going to be ‘you will not close our school’ campaign,'” he insisted. “The politicians or whoever need to stop playing games that’s going to affect poor people as if we don’t have a voice. We have a voice. We may not have money but we’re large in numbers, trust and believe that.”

Minor says there will be a town hall meeting held at Mt. Olivet Church on Thursday, April 14 at 6 p.m.

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