Debate over where RPS will get $29M for facility repairs - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Debate over where RPS will get $29M for facility repairs


Many are questioning where Richmond's school system could get $29 million to pay for what it calls immediate needs. It is possible a struggle between RPS and the mayor might be brewing at city hall to fix school facilities.

After the presentation of a lengthy list of reprioritization had jaws dropping, Superintendent Dr. Dana Bedden told us RPS will make its case to the city. Since that case would be made right in the middle of a fiscal year, only Mayor Dwight Jones can seek a budget amendment.

The amendment could be for as much as $29 million. The list presented last week adds up to $35 million. Richmond Public Schools has already allocated about $6 million of its capital improvement budget. That leaves in total a $29 million hole.

We took the question right to the mayor's office--would he consider giving the school system more money? In a strongly-worded response, the mayor's press secretary said the district needs to deal with the issue of right-sizing the facilities.

Tammy Hawley wrote, "It would not be good stewardship of taxpayer funds to invest in properties that should not be in operation. We are hoping that any plan related to facilities will not overlook this important fact."

"The work of the facilities task force is looking at exactly that, making sure that we're investing dollars where we need to invest them," School Board Vice-Chair Kristen Larson reacted.

Larson says while there could be some overlap between projects dealing with right-sizing or closing facilities and the list, the needs are too urgent to put off.

"The work has been neglected and deferred for twenty-plus years," Larson explained. "They are immediate needs and so you can't right-size at the same time that you're addressing the immediate needs."

Late Monday, a spokesperson for Richmond Public Schools responded to our request for reaction to the mayor's office comment.

Cletisha Lovelace wrote, "Rightsizing a school district requires an internal and external collaborative process involving several steps to be effective. Given that Richmond Public Schools is in a dependent funding school finance model, the school district, in partnership with the City, most likely would have to plan and develop (or update past plans) a Long Range Facilities Master Plan (LRFMP). The LRFMP would need to be a multi-year facilities plan model that has the capability of being expandable, adaptable, and flexible to meet the needs of a growing or declining school district."

Some objectives might be, but not limited to:

1. Realign attendance zone boundaries to proportionately balance student population on an optimum range of 80 - 90 percent of school capacity.

2. Review and update feeder patterns.

3. Provide comprehensive scenarios for multiple situations.

4. Maintain a reflection of the economic and ethnic diversity of the district's student population in the various individual school attendance zones to the maximum extent possible.

5. Consider school reorganization and/or consolidation that allows for reduced cost (more efficient use of buildings to redirect cost to academics) and provides for the "most effective" instructional programs.

6. Maximize transportation efficiencies."

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