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Richmond City Council holds off on transferring money for George Wythe HS

Published: Dec. 13, 2021 at 9:39 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 13, 2021 at 11:38 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Richmond City Council voted Monday night not to hand over $7 million in funding to Richmond Schools until the board justifies why it is proceeding in building a George Wythe, which some fear could be over capacity when it opens.

Superintendent Jason Kamras says the school district isn’t expected to hire a company to even design the school until late January or early February, so Monday’s vote may not delay the project.

City Council President Cynthia Newbillie says she invited the entire board to collaborate on Monday night’s meeting. Only two school board members showed up - Cheryl Burke and Dawn Page.

The very people who have been fighting for a new George Wythe High School asked City Council not to hand over cash to RPS until the board listens to them.

“That’s why I’m here to ask that you withhold that money,” Robin Mines said.

“I have come tonight to ask you to refuse the funding ordinance,” Teresa Kennedy added.

“Do not turn these funds over to the school board of the city of Richmond until it is affirmed they will build this school for 2,000 students,” Rosalyn Gibson said.

The school board is planning to build a new school that holds 1,600 students. City leaders fear that’s setting up the school to be overcapacity.

“Knowingly constructing the school to be at capacity on day one and refusing to expand the student capacity is reckless, and far less than the students and staff deserve,” councilman Mike Jones said.

The majority of his colleagues agreed with him. The only council person against that idea is former school board member Kristen Larson.

“This vote is a budget transfer. This is not a vote for a 1,600 seat school or a 2,000 seat school. It’s literally moving money from one line item to another school line item,” Larson said.

But the council appeared to be flexing its muscle by saying it will not hand over that $7 million until the school board listens to what the community says it wants.

“[Listen to] what the community needs, and we’ll let them talk. And they will be the voice, and they will carry forward the plan,” councilwoman Stephanie Lynch said.

School Board President Cheryl Burke told council she agrees with a school for 2,000 students, but she’s outnumbered by several board members who want to proceed as is.

“We do it better when we do it together,” Burke said.

“When we the adults figure out our stuff, the kids win,” Kamras added.

City council plans to revisit this issue in January at its next meeting.

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