Members of school board, city council discuss controversy over the construction of George Wythe at meeting

Richmond

Richmond City Hall (Photo: 8News)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Richmond School Board recently voted to take over school construction projects, including the new George Wythe High School.

On Thursday, the Richmond City Council’s Education and Human Services Committee met with some School Board members to discuss the fight over who will build the school.

City and school leaders against the decision have been pressuring the board to hand the power back over to city council.

Superintendent Jason Kamras attended the meeting and stated that with RPS taking over the project there could be a three year delay in opening the school.

Currently, the city is prepared to release a request for proposal for design of the new school sometime this week if authorized to do so. Under the city’s current request for proposal construction would be expected to be done by fall 2024.

Now that the school board is tasked with the George Wythe project, Kamras expects the new building likely will not open until fall of 2027. The superintendent says that RPS does not have the staff to immediately start the design process.

“A significant delay,” Kamras said. “I don’t share that as a means of creating any pressure, it’s just my best, honest estimate of where I think we will ultimately land if we continue down the path that we are on.”

At a school board meeting on Monday night supporters of the vote to take control of construction projects took issue with the timeline given by Kamras. School board member Kenya Gibson said the timeline ended in fall 2027 was not “reasonable.” Supporters of the move say they do not plan on delaying construction.

At the meeting, Councilmember Ellen Robertson questioned changing the responsibility over to schools, saying she doesn’t understand what the school board wants them to do differently. Councilmember Stephanie Lynch also questioned the decision saying she doesn’t understand why the school board wanted to take over the plan now.

Councilmember Katherine Jordan said she wants the city to move forward with their current plan that uses funding raised through the meals tax.

School Board Chair Cheryl Burke says she was surprised by the vote to take over school construction projects. She says her only explanation for why it’s happening is that the decision was the will of the board.

The committee opted to reconvene at another time, most likely within the next week, and have all school board members in attendance to discuss the issue further.

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