Plan: Elkhardt MS students to merge with Thompson MS

Plan: Elkhardt MS students to merge with Thompson MS

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Students at Elkhardt Middle School in Richmond will be moving into Thompson Middle School, the beginning of the next school year. The Richmond School Board voted unanimously to combine the schools into the Thompson Middle Building after Elkhardt closed in February, because of mold issues.

Richmond school leaders say even though the student population in the building will double, there won't be over-crowding. Administrators say the number of jobs slashed will be minimal. Still, some parents and teachers at the school board meeting were skeptical.

"Just the concern of the overcrowding, and the teachers... the possibility of them losing their jobs. In the city it's already hard to obtain, and maintain, good teachers," said Thompson Middle School parent Cherita Ellis.

Each school has 450 to 500 students. That would put the Thompson building just under capacity.

"At a functional basis, it'll be close, at that 90… 95 percent number. It'll have some room for growth," said Tommy Kranz, Richmond schools assistant superintendent.

School leaders say there will be room for about two years, but projected population growth would lead to overcrowding after that. Administrators hope the vision of a brand new middle school will be a reality, by 2017.

Leaders also say that class size will remain stable, under a student-teacher ratio of 22-1.

"That number stays the same. So, even though more kids are going to be in the building, in any given classroom, it shouldn't look or feel different in that given classroom," said Abe Jeffers, executive director of secondary schools for Richmond Public Schools.

Parents also had concerns over the social implications of combining two different schools of students, into one.

Kranz says they plan to have some joint activities before the start of the new year. "Let them do field day or some type of activity, where they can start getting introduced to each other."

Ultimately, Thompson Middle School teacher Sean Conard agrees that combining the schools is the most feasible solution, even though he says he has some concerns.

"This is probably the least bad, least terrible, of all the options that are out there," said Conrad.

Administrators say less than ten teacher and staff positions could be slashed, due to the joining of the schools. Those employees have a chance of getting reassigned to another school. Thompson Middle will also have to be renamed.

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