2 school closings, job cuts included in school board budget - NBC12 - Richmond, VA News

2 school closings, job cuts included in school board budget

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

Dozens and jobs will be chopped and two schools will close under the budget passed by the Richmond School Board.

In a unanimous vote Wednesday night, the board was able to more than fill the $11.6 million hole in the Richmond Public Schools budget.

"It shows people that we're going to make the hard choices that you elected us to make," explained School Board Chairman Jeff Bourne.

Hard choices include the decision to close two schools, likely to be elementary facilities, which will save RPS more than a million dollars.

"We have school buildings that are under capacity and we want to fill them to their capacity and actually the result will reduce class sizes because we're operating more efficiently," Board Member Kim Gray told us.

We don't know yet which schools will have their doors closed, but parents at facilities like Bellevue in Church Hill, which was part of last year's rezoning study, are concerned. They made their presence known at the meeting.

"They know this school," Christina Mastroiananni, who is on the Bellevue PTA, said. "They know the teachers. They know the community."

"We need to figure out a way to engage the community," Chairman Bourne said. "We've got a wealth of information from the rezoning commission last year that we can start with, so we have a base of data."

Millions more in savings are coming from job cuts. We also don't know yet if people working for RPS right now will be let go, or if the losses can come through attrition and retirement. Either way, they'll come from the superintendent's office.

"We'll ask her for a plan for how she plans to get those savings but it may include people," Bourne said. "But one of the commitments we made was to keep the classroom safe."

The board also voted to renegotiate and end certain contracts, resulting in millions in savings.  Kim Gray moved to end the school system's largest vendor contract with Community Education Partners, which runs the alternative program. 200 to 250 kids, who get special instruction, are in that school. Leaders say the contract, worth $4.6 million, is not getting results.

Other savings are coming from changes in insurance and removing trailers from all Richmond schools. Next year, you'll no longer see those mobile classrooms on any city campuses.

The schools budget now goes to City Council and the mayor. Chair Bourne says the board may go back to them to ask for more money, but only for targeted expenses. Any extra investments, like teacher rewards and strengthening middle school programs, will be results-oriented.

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