Parents back rezoning plan for greater diversity

Ronald E. Carrington | 11/22/2019, 6 a.m.
Roughly 40 people voiced their over- whelming support for a Richmond Public Schools rezoning plan that would create more racial ...

Roughly 40 people voiced their over- whelming support for a Richmond Public Schools rezoning plan that would create more racial integration by pairing elementary schools that now have largely black or white student populations.

More than 200 people attended the public hearing held Monday night at Ginter Park Elementary School as part of the Richmond School Board meeting.

The speakers, largely parents of RPS students, used the opportunity to urge the board to support a rezoning option that would integrate the district’s schools.

The option, known as Plan X and one of four presented by the RPS Rezoning Action Committee, involves the most extensive pair- ing of elementary schools and would redraw district lines in the East End and South Side, particularly to help alleviate overcrowding in schools in South Richmond.

Under Plan X, Cary and Fox elementary schools would be paired, along with Carver and Mary Munford, while Ginter Park, Holton and Barack Obama would be joined.

Many of the speakers talked about their own experiences in school and their desires for their children to experience a rich and diverse education and exposure to diverse languages and culture reflecting the city’s diverse population.

They asked the board to act on the opportunity to create meaningful and long-lasting change in the city.

“Data shows that integration is the most effective way of narrowing the achievement gap, removing access barriers impeding children from lower socioeconomic situations from becoming successful,” said a member of the RezoningAction Committee in supporting Plan X, noting it is the only proposal providing equity across the paired schools.

The School Board is scheduled to vote on a rezoning plan during its meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 2. The public will have an opportunity to comment on the plans during that meeting, to be held at E.S.H. Greene Elementary School, 1745 Catalina Drive, and at a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 25, at Bellevue Elementary School, 2301 E. Grace St.

Selecting a rezoning plan is a top priority as three new schools are under construction and are scheduled to open for the 2020-21 academic year.

At Monday night’s meeting, Jerome Legions Jr., president of the Carver Civic Association, was the lone voice asking for more money for city schools, especially for Carver Elementary School. He has led the community effort to try to turn Carver Elementary into a magnet school with a specialized curriculum and additional resources to try to improve academics at the school.

School Board member Kenya Gibson, 3rd District, said she was happy to hear the voices of parents who believe in the power of integration, but said she was dismayed at the absence of people of color speaking out at the public hearing.

“I remain concerned that we have been having these conversations about equity without the leadership of people of color leading the charge,” Ms. Gibson said at the meeting. “There are parents and students of color leading the charge for change. I want to know why was the lone student from Thomas Jefferson the only one speaking out tonight. Why was she alone?”