RPS holds first in-person meeting to hear from public on George Wythe construction

Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 6:21 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 13, 2021 at 10:54 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The community continues to call on the Richmond School Board to fast-track the construction of a new George Wythe High School.

Tuesday was the first in-person meeting the board held to hear from the public, but the meeting didn’t go quite as planned. Public comment was only supposed to last for 30 minutes and initially, three board members voted to keep it that way. Then they re-voted to extend that time, allowing for some two hours of public comment.

“George Wythe is a hood. That’s what it looks like,” said passionate recent George Wythe graduate, Corey Stuckey. “You want to look at SOL scores, yeah look at them. They’re bad. That’s right, they’re bad because the school materials are bad, the textbooks are bad, the desks are falling apart. Look right over here, our seats are falling apart.”

A teacher can relate, mentioning the supplies she brings to class.

“These gloves that I buy in bulk to clean up the rat droppings that are in my room,” the teacher said.

They’re speaking out because just about everyone here wants one thing.

“If you want a new George Wythe, please stand,” NAACP President JJ Minor instructed the crowd. Nearly everyone in the room stood.

It’s the first time the Richmond School Board heard from the public in person after the board decided to take sole control of school construction, instead of partnering with the city.

The meeting comes a day after Mayor Levar Stoney held his own meeting with those who are advocating for the construction of a new building. Stoney wants the new school to open by 2025, but he says under the school board’s plans, that will not happen until 2027.

“This smokescreen right here, that’s all it is because you’re not going to change your mind because you’ve got your own personal agenda…You have to come to the table and reason together. The kids are watching,” Charles Willis said.

After the meeting, NBC12 asked the board’s co-chair if that’s a possibility.

“The truth is RPS alone can not do what we need to do. We do need to partner…There’s little sense in reinventing a wheel. Persons have bid on a project, let’s review the bids,” Jonathan Young said.

He’s referring to the mayor already jumpstarting the process of seeking companies interested in designing the school. Those bids are due to come in within 20 days. A letter released to the public Tuesday suggests collaboration is important, although the board is maintaining its “schools build schools” stance.

All but board member Shonda Harris-Muhammed were present at the meeting. Three days ago, she took to Twitter saying: “I stand by my decision. Schools must be in control of schools...This is not politics. It must be righteousness for all children.”

“The vacation that she’s on, some folks will be going on vacation too because we’re going to vote some of y’all out of office,” Minor continued.

There were no breakout sessions or presentations from RPS staff as advertised on the meeting’s agenda. Young says once leaders got there, they realized the meeting should be just about giving people a chance to approach the microphone.

The board did not take action but will meet virtually on July 19.

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