RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Richmond Public Schools School Board met Tuesday, Feb. 22, to discuss updates on William Fox Elementary in the city’s Fan District, where they approved $500,000 to go towards preparing a temporary space for the displaced students.
RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras spoke during the meeting on the current state of the building, current learning conditions for Fox students, newly learned insurance information on the school and plans for the building going forward.
The school district’s Foundation Executive Director, Ty Toepke, said that the school has received over $150,000 in donations and an additional $115,000 in corporate gifts. Kamras said that the current plan is to use all of the available insurance money before going into donations and gifts.
According to Kamras, The insurance covers the replacement costs of the building, not just its current value. The news comes after a Richmond Public Schools (RPS) meeting last week, in which it was reported that the school and its contents were insured for up to $17 million. The actual replacement cost of the building is now expected to be much more.
Katherine Jordan, Richmond City Council member from the second district, said that they are still waiting on the assessment for the building’s structural integrity, and added that it is still too early to say whether the school will be rebuilt from scratch, or if the building will be rebuilt while integrating parts of the current structure. Either way, Jordan confirmed that Fox Elementary School will always be in the spot it’s in now.
Kamras agreed with Jordan, confirming that, “The chances of it being rebuilt at 2300 Hanover are 100%.”
While most Fox Elementary students are currently involved in some sort of virtual learning, Kamras is unsure of how long that plan will continue. He relayed that Clark Springs is the leading, viable option for moving the children and resuming complete in-person learning.
“We want to keep that [virtual] period as brief as possible, while also getting the kids into a space that is prepared for them,” Kamras said. “We don’t have any plans to extend the school year.”
There are currently a few “facilitated learning centers” available to children as an in-person learning option, including the Northside YMCA, the Humphrey Calder Community Center and Richmond’s First Baptist Church.
Due to the ongoing fire investigation by the school’s insurance company and the Richmond Fire Department, Kamras said that securing the roof of the building so that damage does not increase is not an option. The damage continues from the roof throughout the building in the form of asbestos and structural issues.
“We are following the fire department’s lead on gaining access to the building,” Kamras said. “We want to make sure everyone is kept safe first and foremost.”
So far, the fire department has given Principal Jacobs permission to go into the office to collect school records.
Kamras added that the rebuilding of Fox will not impact the timeline of George Wythe noting, “As long as we have the necessary staffing compacity to manage both projects at the same time.”
The school board voted unanimously to approve a motion for the authorization, “up to $500,000 to be spent on renovations to accommodate a temporary location for fox students and teachers contingent on the superintendent’s recommendation for preferred space, but in continuing consultation with this board.”
Additional reporting by 8News Reporter Sabrina Shutters included.