Protesting Students Converge on City Hall, Speak with Mayor - 8NEWS - WRIC | News Where You Live

Protesting Students Converge on City Hall, Speak with Mayor

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On Monday morning, students from Open High School and around the city protested what they believe are deplorable conditions in the Richmond Public Schools system. On Monday morning, students from Open High School and around the city protested what they believe are deplorable conditions in the Richmond Public Schools system.
Richmond Public Schools students participate in RPS Walkout on April 28, 2014 (Photo by ABC 8News Reporter Tim Wronka). Richmond Public Schools students participate in RPS Walkout on April 28, 2014 (Photo by ABC 8News Reporter Tim Wronka).
RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) - On Monday morning, students from Open High School and around the city protested what they believe are deplorable conditions in the Richmond Public Schools system. Their actions were designed to attract the attention of city leaders who control the money needed to fix the problems.

At 8:30 a.m. on April 28, students at Open High School in Oregon Hill left class and walked together to City Hall for a peaceful protest. Students and other supporters who do not attend OHS were invited to bring posters and signs and met the group in front of City Hall at 9 a.m.

"This isn't about school to school," says organizer Stuart Shepard. "It's about coming together and the impact we can have. If one school is falling apart, we're all falling apart."

Organizers say nearly every student from Open High walked out of class to protest.

"I actually was scared at first," says student Autumn High. "I thought, am I going to get suspended? But in the back of my head, I thought, this was food a good cause."

After students marched around city hall for almost two hours, Mayor Jones came out and invited the students inside to talk. There he addressed some concerns, like why money can go to a downtown ballpark but not crumbling schools.

"It's investment. You can't get return unless you invest," he says. "We invest in economic development and it brings in tax dollars."

Some student organizers like Isabella Arias was happy to get audience, but wasn't crazy about the mayor's answers. She felt the mayor was just putting the blame on the school board.

"Something has to change," she says. "This is ridiculous. We are the future of America. Our city will be built upon the backs of our students."

Many students and parents were in favor of securing the funds needed to address the issues plaguing Richmond Public Schools. RPS Superintendent Dr. Dana Bedden agrees the City Council must take action.

"We can't keep patching buildings that are 100 years old," Bedden told ABC 8News earlier this month. "We spend on average about $1,300 per kid just for our maintenance operations. That's the highest in the area."

A Change.org petition directed at the Richmond City Council has also been created. It states that the city spends just over 20 percent of its general fund to support the school system and that Mayor Dwight Jones has submitted an overall budget that cuts $3.8 million in city funds from the Richmond School Board’s proposed budget.

“This petition is to inform the City Council that we are tired of our schools being underfunded,” the online petition reads. “If the City Council does not restore these funds the children in Richmond will not be getting the best education we can provide them.”


Copyright 2014 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond
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