RPS parents sound off on final four rezoning plans

Parents to speak out on RPS rezoning

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Parents sounded off to the Richmond School Board Monday night, on the redistricting options dictating where their children will go to school, next year. Four final rezoning options are now on the table for the entire district.

The School Board is slated to make a decision on December 2, with the new zones going into effect next year.

Parents made their voices heard at the board meeting at Ginter Park Elementary School, Monday evening.

Superintendent Jason Kamras’s administration has supported the rezoning effort to both alleviate overcrowding and help bolster diversity and equity throughout RPS.

After half a year of community debate, and an intensive $127,000 redistricting study, four rezoning options are now under final consideration- plans W, X, Y and Z.

The redistricting will help reduce overcrowding, especially on the city’s southside, including moving students into three new schools set to open next year.

“We are advocating for the school board to make integration a priority in the rezoning process,” said RPS parent Shannon Lindbloom, who has two children in elementary school.

Lindbloom started a petition, which now has nearly 500 signatures, and a Facebook group called Integrate RPS, to advocate for better diversity through rezoning.

“Plan X is probably the best plan for equity and integration,” said Lindbloom. “This is something important even if it inconveniences us or creates change."

Plan X is also the most controversial, widely shuffling students at majority-white and majority-black schools, to be combined together. This proposal includes all school “pairings” or selecting several schools to shuffle together or combine. Ginter Park Elementary (K-2), Obama Elementary (K-2), and Holton Elementary (3-5) are paired. Carver Elementary (K-2) and Munford Elementary (3-5) are paired and students feed to Albert Hill Middle. Fox Elementary (K-3) and Cary Elementary (4-5) are paired and students feed to Binford Middle. Plan X also includes new redistricting lines on the Southside and in the East End.

Plan W is the most conservative, causing the least amount of change. This is the option that involves the Southside and the zones for the three new schools- Mason Elementary, Greene Elementary, and the new middle school on Hull Street. Everything else remains as is.

Plan Y is somewhat less aggressive than Plan X. It redraws lines in all parts of the city, achieving some rezoning, but no school pairing.

Plan Z redraws lines on the Southside and in the East End, leaving the Northside as is. However, it does add a school pairing of Munford Elementary (K-2) and Cary Elementary (3-5).

Other parents have expressed concern over their children going to schools outside their neighborhood, and being removed from friends and teachers.

There’s also concern over some student’s academic performance dropping when combining children from higher-achieving schools and lower-achieving schools, into one classroom.

In an RPS online feedback forum, one post reads, “Average to higher performing students suffer. There is not enough time and attention to support those children due to the remedial needs of others. Do the education outcomes really improve for all?"

Opponents also say the change would prompt some families to move out of the city, ultimately lowering property values.

“We can model flexibility for our children,” said Lindbloom. “We can either say, ‘This isn’t a big deal, and we’re going to be fine. We’re resilient.' Or we can freak out and say, ‘This is terrible.’”

The new zones would go into effect next school year.

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