The School Board voted 6-1 tonight to proceed with a school development plan that prioritizes the schools for new development as: a new Huguenot HS, Broad Rock ES, Oak Grove ES, Martin Luther King MS, and then George Mason ES, Green ES, & Elkhart MS. Previously slots for 4 schools had been identified; this keeps MLK MS on the list for redevelopment and pushes George Mason to the next phase.
Absent was 7th District School Board member Donald Coleman, who is in the hospital.
The night of 2 School Board meetings began at 4:30ish with a recap of the previous meeting (in which they informally decided how to prioritize the building of new schools, with changes that likely pushed any work on MLK Middle School out of Phase 1 of any development).
A time for public comments followed. Many people, including the principals of a Richmond middle school and high school, spoke on the positive impact of the Capital City Program (CCP). A former CCP student received applause after speaking to the changes that the school allowed her to make with her life. Another large contingent spoke to the need for new elementary schools on Southside, describing schools that are falling apart and with out the infrastructure to support modern technology. A third set of folks spoke to the need for new schools in the East End, with Matt Conrad calling the 40 years with no new schools “an injustice”.
State Senator Henry Marsh, describing himself as a resident of the East End, spoke glowingly for CCP but did not mention MLK MS or George Mason ES.
The discussion came up again during the public speaking period of the 6PM meeting. Activist Art Burton spoke forcefully against the Mayor’s proposal, describing it both as taking “two historically disadvantaged communities and pitting them against each other” and lacking public input. Saying that the Mayor’s proposal was akin to “killing the idea of educational equality” and social justice, he railed that voting for a new Huguenot (at the implied loss to the 6th and 7th Districts) is a vote that “we will never be equal”.
The School Board themselves took up the topic about an hour into the 6PM meeting with another recap of the November 9 meeting. Given the chance to speak, the 2nd District’s Gray again questioned the process, saying that too much of the School Board’s responsabilities have been given over to the Mayor’s office. She also stated that she was against beginning with a new high school first.
The 9th District’s Wilson said that it is time to move forward, that there is now political will.
Bridges (1st District) called for the need to keep plans up to date, said that this is what is going on now: updating the 2007 list for 2009. Said that 1st District residents want more options for high school. Points made: Sixty-five percent of the schools in RPS are 45 years or older. The plan being considered now will give 17% of the students new schools.
The 8th District’s Page said that “it is time to step up to the plate” and take action. The 4th District’s Graham-Scott said that this option is a chance to “move forward as a partnership” and called for the same effort being put into build be put into programming and staffing at the new schools.
The 6th District’s Smith spoke for the 6th and 7th Districts, describing the schools that have been closed and the ragged conditions of the buildings and saying that “students have gone through that building thinking that they are not cared for by Richmond Public Schools”. MLK will become a community center. Overby-Sheppard *will* be in Phase 2.
School Board members Donald Coleman (7th District) and Norma Murdoch-Kitt (3rd District) were not present and did not vote.