Some school board members question changes to RPS construction plans

Construction of new high school on hold

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Contractors are currently submitting proposals to build new schools for Richmond's massive RPS facilities overhaul, but some school board members say there are already unexpected changes to the $150 million project that are raising eyebrows.

Immediate plans to build a new high school are on hold, while three other new schools are moving forward.

The Richmond School Board approved 'phase one' in rebuilding Richmond's aging schools. It gives the green light for two new elementary schools, one new middle and one new high school, which was still the plan through this April meeting.

But just over a month later, the city had posted for only three schools, leaving a new George Wythe High School off the list.

"I can only speak to what I was involved with as a school board member, and that didn't involve narrowing it down to only three schools," said Kenya Gibson, Richmond School Board member.

Several school board members, including Gibson, say the decision to pause construction of a new high school was made under the radar. Reps for the superintendent, Mayor Levar Stoney and several other school board members say it was clear there wasn't enough money to move forward with the high school, and that all this was discussed.

"Ultimately, if we weren't able to proceed with that school, that means it's on hold indefinitely," said Gibson. "This should have been something that we had a public discussion."

Originally, school board documents showed the new schools would open in 2021 and later. Now, contractors are being told that the schools are set to open in 2020 on an "aggressive timeline." Gibson is concerned the process is being rushed.

"I have some hesitation if there's motivation to try to have schools built before elections, because we want to make sure these buildings are done right," said Gibson.

A spokesperson for the mayor says school officials were involved in the request for contractors to submit plans and that they're proceeding based upon the approved schedule.

A representative for the superintendent says despite the accelerated timeline, protocols are "in place for checks and balances throughout the construction process."

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