Parents and teachers were widely relieved that the Richmond School Board has - so far - listened to their concerns about their children's education. Monday night, the board voted to rezone elementary schools below the James River, appeasing many parents and teachers through their decision.
The rezoning debate isn't just about redrawing attendance lines, or closing schools with low enrollment. For parents like Crystal Burgess, a mom of a student at Fisher Elementary, the rezoning is about ensuring every student has the best opportunity to learn.
The rezoning committee had initially recommended that Fisher Elementary be combined with Southampton Elementary.
"I was afraid of what was going to happen… the kids falling through the cracks, especially at the elementary level," said Burgess.
The rezoning committee worked extensively with an outside firm to study population data and assess school resources and building utilization. The committee made recommendations it believed best suited the interests of students and the school budget, which included closing up to four schools throughout the district. The proposed plan drew intense opposition from parents, teachers and students ensued.
Board members voted Monday to keep both schools running.
"It was a great place for my children to be…I would want it to remain open because I knew they really loved the teachers, the school, the principal, the children, all the relationships they developed," said Fisher Elementary mom Jamie Brooks.
However, kids at Summer Hill Elementary will find themselves in a brand new building next year. Summer Hill will close. Students there will attend the new Oak Grove-Bellemead School currently under construction.
However, not everyone was happy with plans surrounding the new school. Hillside Court students were initially rezoned to attend school elsewhere, even though they were closer to the one being built.
"It was a disgrace because they were zoning warehouses to be able to go to the new schools. There are no kids living in warehouses. We have abandoned dogs living in warehouses," said Hillside Court mother Patrice Shelton.
The board ultimately changed the zoning, so Hillside Court students could attend the new, state-of-the-art facility.
The school board expects to vote on the northside attendance zones for elementary schools by the end of its term, ending in December. The new school board elected for 2013 will finalize the middle and high school rezoning plans.
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