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School Board approves construction plan

5/15/2018, 8:44 a.m.
The Richmond School Board voted 6-2 at its meeting Monday to approve Superintendent Jason Kamras’ plan to collaborate with the ...

By Ronald E. Carrington

The Richmond School Board voted 6-2 at its meeting Monday to approve Superintendent Jason Kamras’ plan to collaborate with the City of Richmond on construction of four new school buildings — George Mason and E.S.H. Greene Elementary schools, Elkhardt-Thompson Middle School and George Wythe High School.

Board members Kenya Gibson, 3rd District, and Jonathan Young, 4th District, cast the two dissenting votes. Member James “Scott” Barlow, 2nd District, was absent from the meeting.

“While I am eager to get our students out of the awful facilities ASAP, I am also eager to see that the taxpayers are not taken for another ride,” Mr. Young said, noting his objection was based on three years of problems and headaches surrounding the construction of the new Huguenot High School. The school opened in January 2015.

“We did not have problems with the construction at Broad Rock or Oak Grove Elementary,” said board member Linda Owen, 9th District, countering Mr. Young’s comments. “These two planned elementary schools will be built and I don’t see why we have to have a delay. These schools are to open in the fall of 2020. So, let’s get going.”

Mr. Kamras’ proposal outlines a four-phase planning and construction process for the collaboration with the city. Phase one is issuing the request for proposals for design and construction by Tuesday, May 15. Mr. Kamras and Mayor Levar M. Stoney are to each name three members to a joint construction team by then. The team is to meet weekly to address issues that may arise throughout the planning, construction and initial occupancy of all of the schools. It also is to provide monthly reports to the School Board and city officials.

Additionally, the schools administration will form a stakeholders committee for each new school by May 15. The committee, to be comprised of students, family members, principals, teachers and staff, School Board members and community partners, will meet monthly to provide recommendations to the joint construction team.

Phase two includes the review and selection of building designs. With guidance from the stakeholders committee and joint construction team, the schools administration will select a design by June 15.

Phase three is to secure approval for the start of construction by March 15.

The final phase is construction, with a target completion date of August 2020 for George Mason and Greene Elementary schools. Opening dates for Elkhardt-Thompson Middle School and George Wythe High School are to be determined, pending information about debt financing from the city, officials said.

In other matters, Mr. Kamras outlined expenditures for his 100-day plan that came with a price tag of $149,725.

That cost covered project management support, training and books, new cabinet members’ headshots, an equity and budget audit and development of a website, video and management support for the schools’ strategic plan.

He said the cost was covered by donations from the Robins Foundation, Dominion Energy and businessmen William H. “Bill” Goodwin Jr. and Jim Ukrop.

Mr. Kamras also told the School Board that he plans to work with Mayor Stoney and Richmond City Council to align budget terminology so that RPS and the City of Richmond are on the same page when assessing line item costs. At present, each entity uses different terms, which causes confusion and misunderstanding about what actual monies are available when analyzing RPS capital fund balances, he said.