RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The construction of a new George Wythe High School has been the center of attention during many local government meetings. Tonight’s public agenda for the City of Richmond Education Compact Quarterly Meeting was very open-ended and the building of the school was a big part of the meeting’s first half.
Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras said that the school district has submitted their Request for Proposals for a new George Wythe High School, which included prototypes for the new building.
When Kamras said that prototypes had been submitted, there was backlash from city council members. Stephanie Lynch raised concerns that the community was supposed to be involved with the building of the new school and these proposals were sent out without efforts to gather different opinions. Katherine Jordan also expressed frustration with the lack of community engagement saying she was “just a little hot” about it.
Kamras said there is still room for community engagement in the plans and that they will be taking input on them later. He said the preliminary prototype does incorporate community uses as well as school functions.
The group remains divided on what size the school building will need to be. Right now the school board is working towards building a school with a 1,600 student capacity. City Council members including Lynch, Jordan and Mike Jones all said they were worried George Wythe High School would become overcrowded.
School board member Jonathan Young spoke in favor of the 1,600 capacity saying that Richmond Public Schools already has 2,500 open high school seats across the school district and that currently George Wythe High School has 1,300 students.
School board member Kenya Gibson said that when city council was determining school building plans dollars were wasted, obstacles were put in the way and timelines for new projects were set too far out. She called on Mayor Levar Stoney to respect the school board and their decisions.
Another school board member Dawn Page said it was time to take the personalities out of the school building discussion and create a plan. Page said if there isn’t a plan in place the children and families are the ones who will lose out.
She wasn’t the only school board member who felt like there wasn’t a plan. Nicole Jones said the school board needed to determine what they wanted the city’s involvement to be and move forward with a plan and conversations focused on young people.
Shortly before Page and Nicole Jones called for a plan to be made, Jones said that families have an alarming number of concerns with the construction project. He said there has been a lot of dancing around issues and not coming to resolutions to move forward.
“As chair of the finance committee, I guarantee you, I am willing to hold funding until we get a plan, until we know where we’re going,” Jones said.