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School district rezoning plan calls for closing 4 elementary schools

Published: May. 22, 2012 at 3:28 AM EDT|Updated: May. 27, 2012 at 3:41 AM EDT
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School district rezoning plan meeting
School district rezoning plan meeting

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Four elementary schools in Richmond could close under a new rezoning plan presented Monday night. The school's Rezoning Committee said that there aren't enough students attending these elementary schools to justify keeping them open.

The committee designated John B. Cary, Summer Hill, Bellevue and either Fisher or Southampton elementary schools as being "repurposed." That means the building could potentially be used for other reasons, like housing specialty schools or special needs children.

The committee's chair, Shonda Harris-Muhammed, said the nine-month process was based mostly on student population numbers and geography.

"The entire district will be impacted. Some areas will be affected more than others," said Harris-Muhammed.

Under the committee's recommended plan, John B. Cary Elementary would dissolve, sending its students to nearby Fox Elementary. Students from Summer Hill would filter into a new school building, set to open next January. Bellevue Elementary would also close, transferring kids to other schools in their newly drawn zones. Finally, the Southside would combine students into either the Fisher or Southampton schools.

One of the committee's goals was to zone students to the nearest school possible in proximity to their home. However, school board members have much more to consider before approving any plan.

"We discuss a lot of different things like the effectiveness of the school," said board member Dr. Norma Murdoch-Kitt.

"...free and reduced lunch populations…which is a federal stream of funding we have in each school," said Kim Gray, also on the board.

Board members said they'll also take into account the condition of the building, as well as students who attend schools outside their zone.

"Many schools that currently have few students living near them, also have a lot of students coming to them because they have really good programs," said Murdoch-Kitt.

Each of the existing zones has changed in some way. However, no new rezoning map will be final until parents are heard. There will be two public meetings to discuss the Rezoning Committee's plan. The first is next Tuesday, May 29, at George Wythe High School. The second committee is Thursday, May 31, at John Marshall. Both begin at 6:30 p.m.

The latest rezoning plan presented to the School Board should be posted on the School District's website by tomorrow, according to the Rezoning Committee.

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