Several RPS athletic facilities slated for upgrades

Fred Jeter | 9/13/2018, 6 a.m.
Some long overdue improvements to athletic facilities are coming soon to Richmond Public Schools. “We’re making a dent; it’s called ...


Dr. Stefanie Ramsey

Some long overdue improvements to athletic facilities are coming soon to Richmond Public Schools.

“We’re making a dent; it’s called progress,” said Dr. Stefanie Ramsey, RPS Instructional Specialist.

“Like they say, slow and steady wins the race.”

A new track at John Marshall High, new football turf at Thomas Jefferson High School and up to 13 resurfaced gymnasium floors are part of a three-part plan approved last month by the Richmond School Board.

Construction company bids currently are being reviewed, said Ramsey. She is hopeful “ground will be broken” sometime this spring at John Marshall and Thomas Jefferson and that work then will start on the gymnasium floors.

Ramsey estimated the new track would cost about $375,000 and about $50,000 to $55,000 for the new field at Thomas Jefferson, and the gym floors about $125,000 in total.

A little further out on the horizon is a move to resurface the track at Armstrong High School.

John Marshall will get an eight-lane, 400-meter synthetic track, replacing the old dirt and cinder oval that circles the football field. Ramsey is hopeful the new track will be ready for use by the 2019-20 school year.

John Marshall will be able to host a meet in 2019 for the first time in decades.

“We look for the track to be used by the community as well as the school,” said Ramsey, noting it also would be available to students at adjacent Henderson Middle School in North Side.

Under Coach Kelvin Aiken, the John Marshall Justices have been a Division 3 powerhouse despite the school’s inadequate facilities.

Unfortunately, Coach Aiken, who has long sought a more modern track, will not be around to reap the benefits. He recently accepted a new coaching and teaching position in Florida.

When the work is completed at John Marshall, Thomas Jefferson will be the lone city high school with no synthetic track. Even worse, Thomas Jefferson’s track is one-fifth of a mile around instead the of the tradition, one-quarter mile around.

Thomas Jefferson’s football field, which also is used for soccer, has poor drainage and has been overrun by weeds in recent years. There were serious questions last fall if it would be appropriate for a postseason playoff game.

“You can play a football game on it, but you can’t play soccer,” said Ramsey, “and soccer has become a popular sport at TJ.”

The resurfaced gymnasiums would be at various elementary, middle and high schools throughout Richmond. The gyms are used mostly for basketball, volleyball and daily physical education classes.

“These are improvements we’ve fought for for years,” said Ramsey, who likes to call herself RPS’ athletic director.

“From small seeds grows a community.”