City Council Monday- Green Alley & Open High

On Monday, Richmond City Council will be making some very important decisions about Oregon Hill. They will be voting on closing Green Alley for VCU’s continuous expansion. They will also be voting on a School Board plan that would close Open High in 2019 and give VCU a lot of decision making about the […]

On Monday, Richmond City Council will be making some very important decisions about Oregon Hill. They will be voting on closing Green Alley for VCU’s continuous expansion. They will also be voting on a School Board plan that would close Open High in 2019 and give VCU a lot of decision making about the future of its (national award winning) program.

This may sound over dramatic, but I believe there are political forces in this City that are colluding to deliberately destroy Oregon Hill’s historic grid and its institutions. If you care at all about the long term viability of the neighborhood, this is a meeting to attend.

I would be lying if I said that I expected to prevail on the alley closing. I think the preservationist groups that usually come to our aid figure its a done deal and they want to save their influence for trying to stop VCU from demolishing the MCV West Hospital building.

But Open High still has a chance to remain a neighborhood institution, one we can be proud of.


Begin forwarded message:

From: Scott Burger
Date: March 3, 2008 11:52:47 PM EST
To: Scott Burger
Subject: Re: [OregonHill] Open High

On Mar 3, 2008, at 11:42 PM, Scott Burger wrote:

Providence Journal, March 20, 2007
Providence Schools: A Sustainable View
There is widespread support for Mayor [David N.] Cicillines effort to revitalize Providences public school system. But putting a new face on public education by demolishing historic schools in favor of building new schools really misses the point and unfairly targets Providences incredible collection of well-designed and solidly constructed school buildings from the late-19th and early-20th centuries.
Practically all of Providences schools from neighborhood architectural landmarks such as the Victorian Asa Messer Elementary in the West End to the Brutalist Classical High School suffer from lack of maintenance and overall poor stewardship of grounds and property. At Classical High School, a rusting [trash bin] sits right next to the school entrance on Westminster Street. More than money, we need a new attitude about our public schools and our public buildings. With a good attitude comes the care and respect that these buildings and ultimately our children and citizens deserve.
Most of Providences school buildings scheduled for closure or demolition under the DeJONG plan are neighborhood icons; much like religious structures, town halls, libraries and college campus buildings, these monumental edifices serve as compasses, anchoring and expressing our collective hopes and aspirations. It is truly unfortunate that following years of neglect, the city and school administration would embrace a plan that would destroy these sources of civic pride, now portrayed by the DeJONG [education] consultants as symbols of decay.
It is eerily reminiscent of the attitude commonly held towards our Victorian neighborhoods the very homes we treasure today only 25 years ago. Given city and state budget constraints, how can we know the design of new schools will be thoughtful and sympathetic to neighborhood character? Even more significant, how do we know new schools will be cared for, that as soon as work is completed someone wont put a [trash bin] by the front door again?
The Council of Educational Facility Planners International, in its Schools for Successful Communities, states that communities should employ principles of smart growth when considering school projects and that school development should represent the values and the unique history, culture, economy and geography of a community.
The theory du jour of assembling classroom pods in order to facilitate team teaching might play well in 2007, but 10 years out, the pod approach may prove unwieldy and outdated. The facilities plan as outlined by DeJONG Associates runs counter to many of its own arguments, including advocating for neighborhood schools: the current plan would transform the popular West Broadway Elementary School into a swing school where students are bused in from schools undergoing construction in other neighborhoods closing West Broadway for two years or more.
Just 115 miles to the southwest, in New Haven, Conn., coalitions of parents, students, alumni and neighborhood activists advocated for the preservation of practically every extant school building in conjunction with renovation and new construction. Also in New Haven, the city brought each proposal for school renovation/reconstruction before the local Historic District Commission for review and comment. The results in New Haven, while not optimal in every case, are impressive and testify to the importance of a partnership between the city and the community and show the publics appreciation for historic neighborhood schools.
The Providence Preservation Society believes that clean, attractive schools run parallel with safe and healthy neighborhoods. We also share the excitement about the prospect of possible good new schools and, with representation from the State Historic Preservation Office and neighborhoods, are reviewing the DeJONG plan in cooperation with city officials.
We have also asked DeJONG Associates for in-depth analysis on how individual school plans were developed. Providence Preservation Society will make recommendations after analyzing this data. We understand the enthusiasm generated by the construction of an exciting new neighborhood school (as with New Havens John Martinez School in the citys formerly beleaguered Fair Haven neighborhood). But John Martinez was built on a largely vacant parcel and with neighborhood and citywide support.
Officials from Gilbane Co., who have played a significant role in the development of the current plan, drawing on their experience building schools in New Haven, state that in Providence it will cost around $400 per square foot to replicate the New Haven, which that combines building rehabilitation with new construction and selective demolition.
What is lost in the calculation is the fact that in most renovations some improvements are left for another time the scope of a renovation can be tailored to the budget renovation is rarely all or nothing. The comparison again shifts when remediation and site acquisition costs are factored into the cost of new construction. The projected new construction costs of $250 to $260 per square foot stated in the DeJONG report actually may not be realistic for Providence.
Others besides the Providence Preservation Society have expressed an interest in sustainable development when it comes to our public schools: Grow Smart Rhode Island and the state Department of Education have published guidelines supporting preservation, wherever possible, of neighborhood schools as well as retaining and reusing existing buildings. With regard to the DeJONG [plan], we urge the city and schools administration to:
Listen to neighborhood voices.
List historic school buildings in the citys industrial and commercial building district.
Consider the practicality of renovating older school buildings that may not be perfect, but are serviceable, sustainable and well-loved by parents, students and teachers alike.
Lets take a sustainable view when addressing improving Providences public schools, not a 1960s slash-and-burn policy.
Providence Preservation Society :: 21 Meeting Street :: Providence, RI 02903
401-831-7440 :: fax 401-831-8583 :: info [at]

On Mar 3, 2008, at 11:33 PM, Scott Burger wrote:

The plan is up for vote on Monday.


?Appropriate location of Open HS near VCU needs to be determined and may include participation with
the university.?

Personally, I think Open is appropriate at its current location.

some correspondence:

Hi Scott,

A little update. With the 1 million identified to begin covering some of the yr 1 of the setttlement, Open High is listed to get a ramp. Other ADA improvments such as an elevator, accessible toilets etc…are in the other 4 yrs of the settlement. I don’t have the settlement on me so I can’t give you the exact yr.

Thanks for keeping the pressure on the elected officials. I still can’t read where Jewell stands on this issue.

From: Scott Burger
Date: 2008/02/07 Thu AM 06:51:41 CST
To: Betsy Carr , Marty Jewell ,
Francine Young
Subject: Political: More on CIP vs. Maintenance

What is going on with ADA access to Open High?

some more correspondence:

Mr. Burger,

As previously indicated, the elevator at Open High School is a project that
is going to be addressed with the Year 3 projects. We are still in the
process of identifying funding for Year 1 projects.

I see that your interest is with the model of the elevator at Open High
School. Do you have a specific elevator model that you would like to
suggest that we consider installing?

Thank you,
Aisha Shamburger

—–Original Message—–
From: Scott Burger []
Sent: Wednesday, February 13, 2008 11:57 PM
To: Aisha Shamburger
Cc: ‘Tom Sheeran’;;
Subject: Re: RPS ADA Settlement

Where is this project now?


On May 1, 2007, at 11:22 AM, Aisha Shamburger wrote:

Mr. Burger,

The elevator at Open High School is slated under the settlement for
Year 3
(July ‘08 – June ‘09). It is important to note, however, that the
on the settlement are approximately one year behind due to a lack
of funding
and that elevators under the settlement are considered major
which have allotted timeframes for completion. While there is an
timeline to complete the design and construction phases for the
elevator at
Open High it is contingent upon funding.

Hopefully this helps. If you have additional questions, don’t
hesitate to
contact me.

Aisha Shamburger
ADA Coordinator
Voice: 804-780-6211
TTY: 804-780-6226

Even more correspondence:

hi scott,

are you aware that Open High school has a PTO and not a PTA? The current PTO President previously requested to have Open High (or at least through her email address) removed from the email list from RCPTA. i am not sure about the PTA opportunity to assist with the Building grant and Solar School initiative unless we perhaps coordinate something with the PTO. both the PTO and the PTA have separate operating national non-profits. anyway, if you would like, give me a call and let’s talk.

Tichi Pinkney Eppes, President
Richmond City Council of PTA
P.O. Box 74873
Richmond, Virginia 23236
fax (804)745-3707
message line (804)864-9401


Begin forwarded message:

From: Scott
Date: November 29, 2007 7:47:41 AM EST
Subject: [OregonHill] Open High

According to the latest study, RPS is still considering closing Open High. This, despite the fact that it is one of the most successful high schools in Richmond.


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