You can do something real to fix Richmond Public Schools facilities, another meeting added

Beginning this week, Richmond Public Schools will host another round of community meetings to review and gather feedback on the Facilities Task Force Needs Report. Here is our impassioned plea.

Update #1 — February 4, 2016; 8:44 AM

The January 26th meeting was snowed out so that meeting has been rescheduled.

  • February 9th • Linwood Holton Elementary School, 1600 West Laburnum Avenue

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Original — January 11, 2016

Back in April 2014, Richmond Public Schools put together a Facilities Task Force to evaluate the district’s many short- and long-term facility needs. In doing so, the Facilities Task Force was, well, tasked with assessing projected enrollment throughout the district, gathering input from the community, and (based on that information) offering recommendations to RPS’s administration and School Board, as well as the Mayor, City Council, and the public as to how to proceed over the next 10 years.

A year later, the Facilities Task Force–co-chaired by Richmond City School Board members Kristen Larson and Kimberly Gray and comprised of community leaders, volunteers, and staff, and subject matter experts1–presented the Facilities Needs Report. The Needs Report was first presented to the Richmond City School Board on April 13th, 2015, then presented the following month to a joint meeting of the School Board and Richmond’s City Council. An updated Needs Report–focusing on one of five original options–was then presented to another joint meeting on October 12th.

Here are PDFs of each presentation if you’re into that sort of thing…

If you’re not into perusing presentation PDFs, videos of each presentation can be found on RPS’s website. Or here’s the quick ‘n’ dirty: we are at a critical stage in the story of Richmond Public Schools. As of now, the projected cost for the Task Force’s current recommendations is in the $500-$600 million range. A hefty price tag, yes, but considering the impact schools have on the economic and social health of our city, we’ve got to do something.

Richmond Forward, a community advocacy group built on the idea that education is our top economic and civil rights priority, hit the nail on the head with this paragraph on its website:

In the near future more schools will be forced to close due to structural or environmental failures. Large sums of money will be spent on short-term, band-aid efforts to continue the lifespan of outdated, inefficient mechanical equipment, or outdoor classrooms to address overpopulation. If the status quo–reaction–remains, money will not be used for new assets that will accrue capital and cost savings over time. The albatross that is failing facilities will continue to drain city coffers, thus forcing continued cuts to classroom education…

If you live and work in or around the City of Richmond, this is something you need to care about–whether you have kids in school or not. The quality of schools directly impacts property values and economic development. But more importantly (most importantly, in my opinion), as Richmond Forward explains, “Richmond schools were set up to fail through the construction of lower quality ‘separate but equal’ facilities–many of which are still used today and, drastically underfunded through many decades, must be made whole.”

We’ve got some messes to clean up, literally and figuratively. And your input is needed to make that happen2.

Two weeks after that October 12th presentation, Richmond Public Schools began hosting community meetings (two per district) to share the Needs Report and gather feedback from the community. The next–and final–round of community meetings begins this week and continues into the first week of February.

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Meeting dates and locations are as follows (all meetings are from 6:00 to 8:00 PM):

  • January 12th • Binford Middle School, 1701 Floyd Avenue
  • January 14th • Franklin Military Academy, 701 N. 37th Street
  • January 19th • G.H. Reid Elementary School, 1301 Whitehead Road
  • January 21st • J.H. Blackwell Elementary School, 300 East 15th Street
  • January 26th •  Linwood Holton Elementary School, 1600 West Laburnum Avenue
  • January 28th • Mary Munford Elementary School,211 Westmoreland Avenue
  • February 2nd • Broad Rock Elementary School, 4615 Ferguson Lane

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So pick a meeting to attend. Hell, pick a few. Feedback is sure to vary based on the location of each meeting–that’s just the nature of the beast here in Richmond. Go get the facts, listen to the recommendations, talk with your fellow Richmond City stakeholders. And don’t forget to let your School Board representative know what you think. After these meetings finish up, the Task Force will then report back to the School Board in February, and recommendations are set to be finalized via the School Board’s approval in March. Now is the time to make sure your voice is heard.

  1. Those subject matters included real estate, architecture, construction, sport facilities, and economic development. 
  2. You can also offer your input through the Community Perspectives Survey which is available online through January 19th. 
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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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