The Richmond School Board held the first of two public hearings on the difficult decision of whether or not to close Clark Springs Elementary School.
The Richmond School Board held the first of two public hearings last night on the difficult decision of whether or not to close Clark Springs Elementary School and relocate the Adult Career Development Center and Norrell pre-k programs next year in order to alleviate a $1,000,000 budget shortfall.
The most recent proposal would see Clark Springs Elementary School closed and the perhaps ACDC moved to the Tech Center and the Norrell students moved to Mary Scott until the new MLK building opens. Rezoning would impact almost all of the elementary schools north of the river.
A crowd of maybe 130 people turned out for the meeting at Thomas Jefferson High School. At least 40 stepped to the mic to voice an opinion, with the vast majority speaking against the plan as presented. Staff and volunteers from Clark Springs were heavily represented, with many wondering why a school which has done so well would be chosen for closure. Supporters of Clark Springs were passionate about the school, with some angry about the process.
Opponents of the proposal also described how the changes would make John B. Cary Elementary School less diverse. One speaker asserted that the schools now “are less segregated than the neighborhoods”, but that this would change.
One group of speakers from the Southside were consistently in favor of the proposed rezoning. Under Plan C, Westover Hills Elementary School would become more of a neighborhood school for the area around Forest Hill Park.
In a surprise move at the end of the evening, the 5th District’s Mamie Taylor made an attempt to get surplussing the school district’s warehouse on Arlington Road (worth perhaps $1.4 million to $9 million) onto the evening’s agenda. Doing this, she says, will take budgetary reasons out the discussion for closing schools. Chairman Jeffrey Bourne replied that the meeting had already been adjourned and denied her request. Taylor stated her intention to bring this up at the next meeting.
The second public hearing will be held on Monday, June 3rd at 5:00 PM in Council Chamber at City Hall. The School Board is expected to vote on the proposal at that time.
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Below is video of the complete public response period (with 1 speaker lost when I had to change out the camera). I’ve broken out four representative and interesting speakers and also the interaction between Ms.Taylor and Mr.Bourne.