8 Richmond Public Schools listed for possible closure

Published: Apr. 5, 2016 at 3:00 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 15, 2016 at 8:32 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Tough decisions are looming for Richmond Public Schools. Richmond School Board members are considering closing eight schools to save money.

RPS is facing an $18 million budget shortfall, in a continual tug-of-war with city officials over funding.

The schools on the chopping block would be combined with other schools, in an effort to save money on building and staffing costs.

John B. Cary Elementary, Swansboro Elementary, Overby-Sheppard Elementary, Southampton Elementary, Armstrong High and three yet-to-be-named alternative schools would filter students elsewhere.

This would save the district about three million on facility operations and staffing. However, uprooting children and teachers isn't going over lightly with parents like Jenny Aghomo, who has two children at Cary Elementary.

"What is that telling the community? What is that saying to everyone? That we can just up and move kids and families? It's just not fair, and it's just not right," said Aghomo.

Aghomo and other groups supporting the school district are challenging the mayor and city council members to find money elsewhere in the budget.

"I think that [the mayor] needs to find a way to come up with the money for RPS, said Aghomo. "I think that funding the Redskins training camp… some of these things that he feels are a priority… are actually not in the best interests of anybody in Richmond."

Richmond School Board Chair Jeff Bourne says consolidating schools is a last resort, even though teacher layoffs aren't anticipated.

"I think we need to look at every stream of revenue the city gets, the schools get, and look for those ways that we can change the way we do business to be more efficient," said Bourne.

Bourne says the district is looking at streamlining bus transportation and combining more administrative staffers into the same buildings. He says these measures, plus the school closings, still only equal about $10 million in cuts, when $18 million is still needed.

Bourne reiterates that these closures are working ideas, very likely to change before any final vote. The public will also have numerous chances to sound off at multiple public hearings, before the final decision.

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