Education Editorial: Richmond school closings

By: Bill Bosher - email

While sitting on Governor Wilder's education committee, not unlike the one that just completed work for Mayor Jones, the question was posed to the Chairman of the Board and Superintendent of Schools, "If you placed students in schools until they were at capacity, how many empty schools would your have?"

The question was also qualified with the condition that pupil-teacher-ratios should not be changed. The answer from both officials was revealing and startling…fourteen or fifteen!

Twenty five percent of the Richmond City Schools would be vacant. To add to the fiscal challenge, outside facility experts had calculated that repairs were in the $500,000,000 to $1,000,000,000 range.

This week the school board heard a consultant's report suggesting that the City should close four schools. Bellevue, Cary, Summer Hill, and Fisher (or Southampton) were targeted. While middle and high school zones were reviewed, there were no recommendations for closure.  The Superintendent and Board should be commended for taking on this tough task; however, they also need to ask some "tough" questions.

Zachary Reid of the Times Dispatch reported that the author of the study stated to the Board, "(We) wanted to make it a little softer." "The Committee wanted to give you a little flexibility."

Having conducted studies about school closings…and having been escorted to my car by the police…this issue requires something other than a "soft" approach. Add Federal requirements for those who are disabled, budget constraints, and enrollments that have declined for years, and the operative word becomes "hard". Make hard decisions…and if you are sincere, don't simply target the places that may make the most compelling arguments to stay open.