RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — To make up for a budget shortfall and declining enrollment, a Richmond school board member is proposing shutting down five Richmond schools.
Thousands of vacant seats across Richmond Public Schools prompted fourth district school board member, Jonathan Young, to bring a budget amendment proposal to the forefront.
“This is a conversation that is long overdue,” he said.
Young said there are 8,625 vacant seats across the school division.
“More than 8,600 vacant seats is the equivalent of 10 schools sitting entirely idle,” he said.
Young wants to close the gap by shutting down five schools with the highest number of vacant seats and that are in dire need of repair or replacement.
At the top of his list are: Swansboro, Fairfield Court and Woodville Elementary Schools, Henderson Middle School and John Marshall High School.
None of those schools are in Young’s district, and at all five of the schools he named, over 75% of the student population is Black. In the school division as a whole, just 60% of students are Black.
Closing five schools amounts to eliminating more than 1,700 empty seats. So even if the school board adopts the budget amendment for the 2023-2024 school year, there will still be thousands of vacant seats left throughout the district.
Young said the school division spends about $1 million a year on operational costs for each building. This would help them pocket at least $5 million with five school closures.
Moving forward with this budget amendment will give students, currently enrolled at schools identified for closure, the choice of attending any RPS school contingent on capacity.
It’ll also give the school district a chance to increase spending on transportation, like guaranteed transportation for all Open Enrollment students, Young said.
More than 1,100 students participate in open enrollment.
Young added there will be money left over to continue the redesign of Career and Technical Education.
“The counties have more students than they have space for them. We have the exact opposite problem. We have more space than we have students to fill them,” he said.
Young plans to present this budget amendment proposal at Wednesday’s school board workshop.
8News reached out to other school board members Monday and have not heard back.
Superintendent Jason Kamras said he is not going to make comments to the press about individual board member proposals in between meetings.