Richmond School Board member proposes closing five schools over budget concerns
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Five Richmond Public Schools could be on the chopping block.
On Wednesday, Richmond School Board Member Jonathan Young plans to introduce a school consolidation plan during the school board’s budget work session. He says the proposal would save about $5 million.
“Bottom line we have to do this. (There are) 8,600 vacant seats across the school district. It’s not a conversation that anybody per se would prefer to have but it’s a conversation that adults and being responsible have to have,” said Young.
While Young says it would be ultimately a board decision on which schools, he has identified five that could be shuttered due to low enrollment.
Those include: Woodville, Swansboro, and Fairfield Court elementary schools, Henderson Middle School and John Marshall High School. That’s about 1,700 students in total.
Young says children from closed schools would have the option to attend another school in the division and they would receive bus transportation there.
“Think of just utilities alone, you are spending all the money to heat the building for 100% and you have fewer than half of the students in the building,” said Young.
The division is facing about $2 billion in costs to fix up city school buildings.
“We don’t have the money to chip away at that. These buildings have gotten into terrible shape and they become an expense instead of an asset,” said Becca DuVal, a Richmond Public Schools parent.
DuVal says Richmond City Hall should pitch in with money from its rainy day fund to rehab city school buildings. She also says money earmarked for community centers should go elsewhere.
“Why are we paying to maintain two properties, two different properties that should be able to serve the same function? And as one is functional during the school day and one is functional after hours, if that,” said DuVal.
The current proposed school budget sits at $228 million, with a $35 million increase from the previous year, mainly fueled by collective bargaining wages.
A final budget recommendation will come next month.
Young’s Proposed FY 23-24 Budget Amendments:
A. The following budget amendments right-size the school district’s facilities reducing the 8,625 vacant seats.
B. The following budget amendments close a minimum of five schools but even if adopted the district will still have thousands of vacant seats.
C. The following budget amendments prioritize students at a closed school affording them the opportunity to attend the RPS school of their choice.
D. The following budget amendments increase spending on transportation in a substantive way.
E. The following budget amendments guarantee transportation for all Open Enrollment students reversing an equity deficit and adopting a recommendation of the Open Enrollment Equity Commission.
F. The following budget amendments introduce transformative change to a district that is regressing and in need of big, bold, transformation.
G. The following budget amendments prioritize students over status quo.
Richmond Public Schools will initiate efforts to right-size the district’s capital portfolio by closing no less than 5 schools to be consolidated within the balance of the RPS portfolio.
Students currently enrolled at said schools identified for closure will be afforded a priority status to attend any RPS school of their choice contingent on capacity to include transportation.
For the purpose of budget calculations, this proposal’s budget assumptions relevant to the 5 closures amount to 1,707 students.
Also of note, RPS will fund transportation for ALL open enrollment students reducing an obstacle or barrier identified by the Open Enrollment Equity Commission.
For the purpose of budget calculations, 1,185 student currently participate in open enrollment.
Budget Amendments, Expenditure Increases
1) Increase funding for transportation for students at 5 closed schools.
It should be noted that this number is highly unlikely to materialize because of the cost the district already incurs but to err on the side of extreme caution said number is used for calculations.
2) Increase funding for transportation to afford all Open Enrollment students access to transportation.
It should be noted that this number is highly unlikely to materialize because not all students will choose to use RPS transportation but to err on the side of extreme caution said number is used for calculations.
3) Continue Redesign of Career and Technical Education.
Budget Amendments, Expenditure Decreases
1) Close five schools to be consolidated within the balance of RPS portfolio.
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