RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A proposal to rezone Richmond Public Schools in order to address overcrowding and increase diversity within the school system has sparked fierce debate in the community for months. One topic of discussion has been the idea to pair certain elementary schools within the school system to help concerns of a lack of diversity.

In July, RPS proposed two rezoning options, but after meetings and initial feedback from parents, the district added two new rezoning approaches.

The district hopes to implement the new boundaries by the 2020-2021 school year “in an effort to improve the academic experience for all students.”

One student told 8News that while it may be an adjustment for some, she’s ready to welcome new students to her school.

“At Cary, we love to have new people here because we like to make friends with other people,” said Ama Aghomo, who attends John B. Cary Elementary.

Since kindergarten, Aghomo has called John B. Cary Elementary her academic home.

“They take care of us a lot and make sure we’re doing the right thing,” she told 8News.

Over the summer, Aghomo and her family attended rezoning discussion meetings. The proposal released last week paired Mary Munford Elementary with John B. Cary Elementary.

RPS Elementary Zones (Draft Option A1 – D)

Mary Munford would house kindergarten through second grade with John B. Cary picking up third through fifth. Other options include George W. Carver Elementary picking up students from William Fox, John B. Cary and possibly Linwood Holton elementary schools.

Aghomo says she welcomes the idea of teaming up with another school and learning alongside students of diverse backgrounds.

“We can help them. We can be nice to them and be kind to them and make them feel welcome,” Aghomo told 8News. “Even if you’re different from them and students are still different from you..we should always be kind to others.”

RPS Middle School Zones (Draft Option A1 – D)

While some students and community members have come out to support rezoning, the website Revitalize RPS has shared concerns about property values and taxes in Richmond.

With new options for rezoning released last week, 8News spoke with Superintendent Jason Kamras Monday to discuss what’s being considered and RPS’ plan ahead.

“The best thing we can do to raise property values and homes values and such is to have great schools across the city in every neighborhood,” Kamras said.

Superintendent Kamras told 8News that creating equality is also about the programs at each school. He also admitted that while RPS is diverse, it’s not very integrated.

“We are a very diverse school system,” Kamras said. “But we are not a very integrated school system.”

On its website, RPS listed goals and objectives for the rezoning plan:

  • To engage the community by:
    • Providing multiple authentic opportunities for all stakeholders to share their ideas and provide feedback
    • Creating an advisory body of community representatives to help guide the process
    • Engaging local historians and other community leaders
    • Reviewing and leveraging past rezoning efforts
  • To develop new zones for RPS schools that 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)
  • Develop a plan for the disposition of vacant and non-instructional (owned/rented) properties in an effort to:
    • Raise funds for new school construction
    • Develop mutually beneficial partnerships with Richmond cultural institutions
    • Focus more time, energy, and money on our core work: teaching and learning
  • Update the RPS Facilities Plan based on Goals 1, 2, and 3.

RPS High School Zones (Draft Option A1 -D)

People in the Carver community said they would like to turn the school into a magnet school with a STEAM emphasis. Superintendent Kamras says it’s an exciting idea but the plan would need to be well-funded.

An implementation planning meeting is scheduled for Oct. 3 “to discuss key issues around implementation for rezoning options such as cost, transportation, governance and facilities.” The options addressed in this meeting could be passed on to the school board for review.

There is a feedback form for those interested in leaving comments, concerns, and suggestions for Richmond Public Schools.