George Wythe tug-of-war continues, stalling potential construction process again

Published: Mar. 29, 2022 at 7:18 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The tug-of-war over building a new George Wythe High School escalates as Richmond City Council failed to pass a budget transfer of $7.3 million to the school board in order to get construction underway.

The council needed six yes votes to pass the budget transfer. Of the seven council members present, four voted yes, while three others abstained from voting.

Frustrations have turned into outrage for many school board members and parents, who are at yet another standstill.

“To listen to people justify holding up funding for the school after four months of withholding it, it is unbelievable!” shouted one community member during the meeting.

Many were hopeful the Monday night vote would be the game-changer to get this project off the ground finally, but they were disappointed.

“Our kids are hurting, they’re hurting day in and day out,” one community member said during public comment. “As we sit here and pontificate about this 7 million, the money is there. Who has the will and urgency to make sure these kids have what they need?”

The contention is mainly over which party will be in the driver’s seat when it comes to deciding the school’s size and capacity limit.

The school board is vying for a 1,600 student capacity, while some on the city council want a school that can handle 2,000 to account for population growth.

He says, at the end of the day, the young students will pay the price and suffer the consequences if no one can reach an agreement.

“I believe this to my core; when adults can’t compromise, the only individuals injured in this process are our kids,” Mayor Stoney said. “They’re the ones who are injured when adults, grown people, can’t get around the table and settle an issue that I think is very simple.”

Today, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said he thinks the money will be approved and transferred if they meet a compromise and agree to build a school that can fit 1,800 students.

“What I’m going to request is that the adults begin some dialogue about how we get this done and how we do it quickly as well. I believe that we’re in an emergency situation,” Stoney said.

The longer a solution is pushed off, the more expensive the project could be with the rising building materials cost. Some fear the new school will never come to be.

“Students in Richmond have been feeling the brunt of a corrupt system for some time, and it’s pretty devastating,” School Board Vice-Chair Kenya Gibson said.

Council has said in the past that this funding should not be contingent on capacity, but Gibson says last night’s vote tells a different story.

“Essentially, city council is pushing us, and they’ve made it very clear that if we don’t follow by their rules, then they’re not going to hand over the money,” Gibson said. “This is extortion.”

Stoney did not hesitate to fire back at that accusation.

“I have no time for that sort of extremist type of talk,” he said.

City council has agreed to table the issue and pick up further discussion on funding next month. In the meantime, RPS is moving forward with its public meetings to get community feedback on what they want out of a New George Wythe High School.

Copyright 2022 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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