RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Richmond Public Schools (RPS) School Board agreed to renovate William Fox Elementary instead of rebuilding in a unanimous vote on Friday.
Board members expressed their satisfaction with the board’s agreement.
“I’m super happy to support this resolution,” board member Elizabeth Doerr, 1st District, said. “I’m glad we were able to come together to prioritize the Fox community.”
The meeting was held specially to address the plans for the historic building, with no public comment period scheduled.
“I’m thankful that this board recognizes the importance of this building as a true hub of the community that it sits in,” board member Kenya Gibson, 3rd District, said. “I’m thankful that we were ready to take action as soon as possible to ensure that the building can be preserved.”
Gibson also made a point of comparing the care with which Fox has been considered for renovation with the 2019 destruction of George Mason Elementary.
“Right after we decided to take down the monuments we took down that historic building right down with it. It’s just such a contrast, you know, to consider how that project was approached and to think about this,” Gibson said. “I received at least a dozen emails from folks who really wanted to preserve Fox, and I was glad to see that. But I wish, too, that the same concern and care had also been considered for this other building which holds many stories and many hearts.”
Three board members were absent at the board meeting on Friday night — Cheryl Burke (7th District), Dawn Page (8th District) and Nicole Jones (9th District). But those who were in attendance — the above-mentioned Gibson and Doerr, Mariah White (2nd District), Jonathan Young (4th District), Stephanie Rizzi (5th District), and Board Chair Dr. Shona Harris-Muhammed (6th District) — all voted affirmatively on the motion to renovate.
According to meeting documents, the RPS School Board received a notice of violation from the City of Richmond on March 4, stating that action must be taking to address the severely damaged structure of the 110-year-old school building at 2300 Hanover Avenue. The notice advised that the School Board needed to apply for a demolition permit by March 31, or submit a report by that same date containing details on how the school would be brought back to a structurally safe condition through renovation.
With the School Board’s vote to renovate Fox, the notice stated that a building permit application would need to be submitted by April 30.
The news came after Superintendent Jason Kamras revealed his preference to renovate the building in a committee hearing last week.
Young stated during Friday’s meeting that the hope would be to have the renovated William Fox Elementary School ready for students, teachers and staff by August of 2024, with work to begin on the structure as soon as possible.