RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – On the heels of Monday nights Richmond School Board meeting, community members and Richmond NAACP President JJ Minor gathered in front of City Hall to voice their concerns regarding construction of a new George Wythe High School.
There has been a lot of back and forth between the city and school board members over who will take the lead in the construction and planning process. Mayor Levar Stoney offered the city’s help to get a new high school opened more quickly. In June, Stoney opened a Request for Proposals, or RFP, for design services in hopes that the school board will accept and speed up the process.
However, the board, which now has control over school construction, has said they will not accept the offer to collaborate with the city. Stoney predicted a completion date of 2025, while Superintendent Jason Kamras projected a 2027 open date.
On Tuesday Minor said Wythe can’t wait.
“Wythe can’t wait and our kids can’t wait, but a majority of the school board thinks otherwise,” said Minor. “They seem to believe that black and brown students who have tried to learn in rat infested, mold-filled schools can wait. This school board has pick an unnecessary fight with the city around the construction of a new George Wythe and unknowingly delayed, again, a new school for our southside students.”
Minor went on to say that community members do not care who builds the school and have asked for compromise, only to be met with resistance.
“They are failing to do what is necessary to put our kids first. The community is watching, the community wants action. If the school board does not take it then we will,” Minor said. “The school board needs to remember that they work for us and as of right now they are failing to do their job.”
Minor said if this behavior keeps up, the NAACP is fully prepared to ask the Virginia Department of Education to intervene, to file a lawsuit against the School Board, and if necessary seek a recall of the board members who are ‘putting Richmond at risk’.
Minor stood next to Reverend Robin Mines, a 1976 graduate of George Wythe High School and Tisha Erby, an RPS parent and George Wythe graduate, who agree their concerns have been ignored.
“Instead of a new George Wythe or clear plans to return to school after nearly 18 months, we are getting a political fight over our community and children’s future,” said Rev. Mines. “We hoped that the board would listen to us, the community. The board did not listen to us. Instead they fast tracked another resolution without public opinion.”
Two weeks ago, the Richmond School Board voted to approve a proposal that will establish the next steps towards building a new George Wythe High School. In a 5-4 vote, members voted in favor of Jonathan Young’s proposal to administer an RFP, which moves them forward on their own. The school district will be looking for a design that spans no more than 260,000 square feet, including athletic facilities.
Richmond Public Schools are now set to issue a Request for Proposals for design services by August 31. The new school will be designed to hold 1,600 students. In addition to the RFPs, the school district will create a panel of city and RPS employees to review and score the proposals.
“This school board has made it very clear that they do not care about the future of our children or our schools,” said Erby, mother of five.
A meeting will be held on Monday, August 2 at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School where community members can submit public comment to the board. Other items on the agenda include fall reopening plans and a possible change to start and end times. The meeting starts at 6 p.m.