RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A Richmond community leader is speaking out after a Richmond school board member proposed shutting down five schools.
James Minor, the Richmond NAACP President, said the organization is opposed to closing down any schools without a plan to rebuild them.
“We don’t want to see the schools close and we’re going to do whatever we can to fight,” he said.
Richmond school board member Jonathan Young, who represents the fourth district, said his budget amendment proposal was presented as a solution to the district’s budget and enrollment challenges.
Young claims the proposal would shut down at least five schools to redistribute students where the capacity allows. Schools with a high number of vacant seats and that are in need of repair or replacement would be a priority — but students at those closed schools would be able to choose where they want to attend.
According to Young, the school division could save about $5 million with the school closures. They could also reinvest the money into students’ transportation needs and into redesigning career and technical education.
Minor said he disagrees with Young’s plan — calling it drastic and potentially unfair to black students and certain neighborhoods.
“We will not allow the Richmond Public School Board to stuff our children in cans like sardines. That’s not going to happen,” Minor said. “If you’re proposing to close something, you need to be proposing to build something new.”
Dr. Janet Copeland, a John Marshall High School alumna, said the board should consider other ways to solve this.
“Faith leaders, teachers, school board. Put it all together and find a reason. Come to the table and reason together on what could be a better way of handling this other than tearing a school down—not unless you plan on rebuilding it. I think at this point that might be a good solution,” she said.
Young said school board members are also looking at making some cuts to the central office including downsizing the community outreach team.
Minor said as Richmond continues to grow, school leaders should look at why students are leaving.
“Ten years ago, we were probably close to 25,000 students. Now we’re at maybe close to 19,000 students whether it’s under or over. That’s a concern and that’s something we’re all going to have to address,” Minor said. “There’s a song called ‘What About The Children?’, but my question is ‘where are the children?'”
The school board will discuss Young’s budget amendment proposal at Wednesday night’s budget work session.