‘Diversity is a good thing’: Mixed reviews on RPS re-zoning options

Richmond

Richmond Public Schools proposes 4 rezoning options

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — In an effort to combat overcrowding and bring more diversity to its schools Richmond Public Schools introduced an updated rezoning plan.

RPS has been meeting with a consulting firm to put together several options for the rezoning of schools.

According to RPS, the new zones aim to improve the student experience by:

  • Ensuring safe, equitable, and more timely transportation; and leveraging natural boundaries when possible
  • Increasing student diversity of all kinds within schools
  • Alleviating overcrowding and minimizing, if not eliminating, the use of trailers
  • Planning for future student population trends and future development
  • Expediting student placement in modern facilities after rezoning through a variety of measures including new school construction, as well as potential consolidations and closures (revised)

Initially, RPS proposed two rezoning options. But after meetings and initial feedback from parents, RPS has added two new rezoning approaches.

Elementary Option 1: ‘A conservative approach to rezoning, in that it only encompasses rezoning of boundaries, with no consideration of school pairing, closures, or consolidation.’

Elementary Option 2: ‘Incorporates some more moderate concepts of school pairing in addition to rezoning, with a focus on balancing utilization and helping to better diversify schools.’

Elementary Option 3: ‘Incorporates some more moderate concepts of school pairing in addition to rezoning, with a focus on balancing utilization and helping to better diversify schools.’

Elementary Option 4: ‘Takes a conservative approach to rezoning, in that it only encompasses rezoning of boundaries, with no consideration of school pairing, closures, or consolidation. ‘

Parents have been weighing in for and against the idea of pairing John B. Cary Elementary School and William Fox Elementary School, as detailed in option two.

“Cary and Fox are paired together in this option, with a focus on balancing building utilization and improving the overall diversity of both schools,” RPS said.

Fox would serve kindergarten through the second grade, while Cary would teach third through fifth grade.

RELATED: Richmond school board to discuss rezoning, plans for vacant buildings

Shannon Lindbloom, a Fox parent, started a petition to help RPS make a decision. So far the petition has received 118 signatures.

Lindbloom has two daughters at Fox. Before her daughters started school she was against the rezoning option.

“Based on neighborhood gossip I had an opinion that Cary wasn’t as desirable of a school and I regret that now,” Lindbloom told 8News.

Parents have offered feedback against the pairing. Many said they moved specifically near Fox for the academic performance.

Others say the blame for lack of performance should not be blamed on the students and parents but rather on RPS.

“We bought a house in the Fan two blocks from Fox intending for our children to go there,” one Fox parents said. “If option two would be chosen, our family would be drastically affected and we would either move out of the city or have to send our child to private school.”

Another Fox parent said ‘they have donated to the school, volunteered at events, and befriended people in the community based on community Fox has created.’

Parents also worried about how the pairing would potentially put Cary overcapacity.

“I am concerned about putting Cary at over 100% capacity with this plan,” a Fox parent said.

“Diversity is a good thing. It’s supposed to be a good thing,” Cary parent, Jenny Aghomo told 8News.

Aghomo has a child who attends Cary. She said she’s explored the options but thinks open enrollment should change.

“You know before sending their kid to a different school to try to you know to send their kid to their community school,” Aghomo said.

The school system plans to implement the new zones for the 2020-2021 school year.

“I’m hoping that parents look at the bigger picture and instead of thinking absolutely what’s best for my kid remember that our children are resilient,” Lindbloom said.

Parents told 8News that they hope as the discussions move forward that transportation will also be a priority for RPS.

In terms of closing schools, the new zones options propose that Thompson Middle School be shut down.

The next community conversation is August 13 at Bellwood Branch Library.

There is also a feedback form where RPS is accepting comments, concerns, and suggestions.

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