Richmond officials want public input on new schools

By Laura Geller - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - City school leaders are on a fast track to "build a better Richmond" by constructing new schools. Work is expected to begin after we celebrate the New Year, but you can share your ideas now. The first of four gatherings took place at the Richmond Technical Center Wednesday night.

The $80M new Huguenot High School is part of the first phase of the new schools plan.  It will be the first new high school the City has built in more than 40 years. Construction isn't slated to begin until May of 2011. In the meantime, school officials are hoping residents will play a key role in the design process.

Most of the people in the room tonight either work for Richmond Public Schools or have some connection to the new schools project. It's not exactly the turnout officials were expecting.

"I think the rain has a lot to do with it. We're going to have three additional meetings. So, I'm sure that the crowd will pick up then," said Superintendent Dr. Yvonne Brandon.

When polled at the meeting, only two people identified themselves as parents. We caught up with one of them, who isn't letting her fellow Richmonders off the hook.

"It does concern me a little bit and it certainly explains why we don't have engagement in a day to day sense in the classroom if we don't have people taking advantage of this opportunity," said Elle Merkle.

It's an opportunity to literally help build a child's education from the ground up. The first phase of construction includes Huguenot High, Broad Rock and Oak Grove elementary schools, and Martin Luther King Middle.

At some point, Richmond Public Schools hopes to have a large pile of forms to go through.  It asks what opportunities for education the new schools should have and then what opportunities should be available for the community in the new buildings."

"It will help engage the community and keep community partners, parents, guardians, extended family, coming back to support our students," said Merkle.

The schools want that support to start at these meetings.

School officials are hoping turnout for the other three meetings will be higher than the first one. The next opportunity for public input is Thursday night at 6 o'clock at Franklin Military High School.

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