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Richmond School Board Holds Vote On Rezoning Plans for 2020-2021 School Year

Richmond School Board Meeting
Richmond School Board Members vote on new school zone plans for 2020-2021 academic year. (Alan Rodriguez Espinoza / VPM News)

Reported by VPM Intern Alan Rodriguez Espinoza.

The Richmond Public School Board voted 5-4 Monday night to redraw school zones in the East End, West End and Southside but will not yet make changes to the North Side.

Voting on the rezoning of schools in the North Side was pushed back to Dec. 16. As of now, no school pairings have been approved. Monday night's motion will also make Carver and Bellevue Elementary Schools into magnet schools by the Fall of 2021. 

The school board faced a divided crowd at Greene Elementary School. Some voiced support for Proposal X, which would have merged, also called pairing, schools in an effort to increase student diversity and deconcentrate poverty. Others supported Proposal Y, which would not pair schools and instead focused on open enrollment and the formation of magnet schools. The school board voted to implement Proposal Y outside of the Northside, where most of the school pairings under Proposal X would have taken place.

“To do a pairing is anywhere from $500 to $800, possibly $900 thousand dollars per school, and if you were to do five to six schools, you’re talking five or six million dollars. Five or six million spread over 47 schools can go a long way,” said Scott Garnett, one RPS parent that preferred an amended Proposal Y over X.

Jessica Levy-Labelle, another RPS parent, says she supported a version of Proposal Y because “it bolsters parent choice.” Proponents of Proposal Y say open enrollment could make for a more organic means of integration over school pairing.

Another Richmond resident, Taikein Cooper, supported the school pairings in Northside. He says regardless of how the vote went on Monday, RPS still has work to do.

“This can only be the start of making RPS a more diverse and equitable division for all students,” he said. “I think now we have to look start looking at Southside as well, and then we look at overcrowding and our facilities.”

Garnett says the rezoning debate has forced the community to engage in “a conversation that we all needed to have.”

“I think it’s brought forth a lot of ideas onto the table and it’s woken people up to how we need to go about changing these schools.” he said.

The motion passed Monday night will also open up 50 seats at Mary Munford Elementary to Carver students for the 2020-2021 school year. School board members aim to reach a conclusion on the rezoning plan for Northside schools by the end of the calendar year.