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Richmond Parents Question District about Fox and Cary Elementary School Pairing

Fox parents, community members discussed Richmond's plans to rezone schools Thursday night.
Fox parents, community members discussed Richmond's plans to rezone schools Thursday night. 

A packed room of Richmond parents and teachers met Thursday night at Fox Elementary to discuss a draft rezoning proposal that would pair Fox and Cary Elementary schools.

The district hopes this idea would increase student diversity as outlined in their rezoning goals. The proposal drew mixed reactions at the meeting.

Caitlin Minnick’s three daughters are zoned for Fox. Although they have not started school yet, Minnick says she supports the school pairing idea because she says Fox is pretty white compared to many other city schools.

“And when people say quality schools, is a quality school a white school? Do you value diversity, do you value what that brings to your kids? Do you value empathy, do you value all those things? Because if you do, then a diverse school is better for your kid,” Minnick said.

So far, the district only has two draft two options for rezoning elementary school, one that includes pairing Fox and Cary and the other that does not. The pairing shows that Fox would become 46% white and 43% black. Cary would become 42% white and 51% black.

Nathan Bick, a father of two, wrote a letter to Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras. Bick said Fox is doing well in terms of diversity and that he is more concerned about losing what’s already been established at Fox if the school were to be split up.

"It's the fourth most diverse,” Bick said during the meeting Thursday. “The fourth most diverse out of 25 elementary schools,” Bick said. "I would like to see this be a true 50-50 school, broad socioeconomic diversity throughout and if that takes expanding the footprint of this building, why not bring more people in?”

George Mason Elementary School teacher Derrick Bates asked how the district is defining diversity.

“But we really have to objectify what diversity is, and it cannot be a subjective definition,” Bates said.

Bates says there is not a lot of diversity at George Mason. Both draft options the district has proposed would not dramatically change George Mason’s black-to-white student ratio.

“All the students who go to my school, they’re either pulled from Mosby Court or one of the other Section-8 projects in that area,” Bates said. “So that’s not diverse.”

School board member Scott Barlow said these drafts are a tool the district is using to fuel discussions about how rezoning will impact various communities.

“This has been a big challenging debate for decades going back to busing and we’ve heard that kind of conversation resurface nationally. So we have segregated neighborhoods, sometimes that exacerbates the segregation in our schools,” said Barlow. “The school district and the city needs to do what it can to address these issues.”

Barlow said he’s open to discussion with other partners and school districts in the region to see if there are ways to increase diversity on a regional basis.

There will be another meeting at Fox from 5:30 to 6:30 on August 13th.

WCVE reporter Megan Pauly and intern Brianna Scott contributed to this story.