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Richmond School Board Discusses Phased-In Rezoning Option

Richmond school board members like Felicia Cosby are concerned about rushing an approach to address student diversity through rezoning.
Richmond school board members like Felicia Cosby are concerned about rushing an approach to address student diversity through rezoning. (Photo: Crixell Matthews)

Monday night, Richmond’s school board held a special meeting to discuss the district’s rezoning work. They have an impending December deadline to approve new school zones if they want to get the new zones in place before the start of the next school year.

There were concerns raised about rushing into an approach like school pairing to help increase student diversity within schools.

“I’m worried that if we rush it, we won’t get it right,” school board member Felicia Cosby said.

School board member Cheryl Burke expressed similar concerns.

“I’m concerned about how we go about increasing student diversity, and how intentional we should be about going about doing so,” Burke said.

The board decided to check in with the rezoning committee at its next meeting to see if they felt like everything being proposed is feasible and realistic for a fall 2020 implementation. 

“Certainly, the priority for me is eliminating overcrowding on the Southside,” school board member Linda Owen said. “We need to rezone for those schools now.”

There was consensus that reducing overcrowding should be a top priority, but there was a hesitance to rank priorities by order of importance.

“I am very hesitant to say we’re going to come out of this meeting today and say, diversity isn’t as important,” school board member Kenya Gibson said. “That’s weird. Making our schools more diverse is a more complex issue, which I think deserves a more thoughtful approach than thinking that we just adjust the lines, and our work is done.”

The rezoning committee meets again next Thursday, September 19th. They plan to submit three to five proposals to the school board by the beginning of November.

As of Monday night, the school board still plans to take an early December vote on a rezoning plan ahead of the 2020 school year. However, there was talk of a possible phased-in approach.

“I think diversity has to be a key priority for us,” school board member Scott Barlow said. “I want to be cognizant of the timeframe we’re working in. The last thing I want to do is push things to a point where we’re kicking the can down the road.”