Fox students get warm welcome at Clark Springs Elementary building

Ronald E. Carrington | 5/12/2022, 6 p.m.

Students from Fox Elementary School started their first day of classes Monday at their new home—Clark Springs Elementary School, which will be their temporary campus for the remainder of the school year.

The students have been displaced from the Fox building since Feb. 11, when a massive fire destroyed sections of the 111-year-old structure on Hanover Avenue in The Fan. Since then, classes initially were taught virtually before students returned to in-person learning March 23 in space provided by First Baptist Church on Monument Avenue. The church was a short stopover while Clark Springs got a $800,000 spruce up—including fresh paint, new doors, electrical upgrades, plumbing repairs, mold removal, new ceiling tiles and a new fire panel—to make it ready for occupancy. A new roof will be put on this summer, officials said, along with installation of a new gym floor.

Richmond Public Schools officials expect the Dance Street building in Randolph will host the students until restoration of the Fox building is completed.

Welcoming the students on Monday were Fox Principal Daniela Jacobs; Richmond Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras; Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney; School Board Chairwoman Shonda Harris-Muhammed, 6th District; and School Board members Mariah L. White, 2nd District, and Stephanie M. Rizzi, 5th District.

The Fox school mascot also was on hand.

The youngsters were greeted with banners, balloons and upbeat music played by D.J. Tony, aka Tony Fernandez. Franklin Military Academy cadets standing outside formed an arch with their swords that students walked through to enter the building.

“We cannot thank Fox teachers enough for all the transitions that they’ve gone through to support their kids,” Mr. Kamras told the parents assembled at Clark Springs.

Teachers decorated classrooms and hallways last week.

“We are nothing, if not resilient,” Mr. Kamras told the Free Press. “The opening of Clark Springs demonstrated that. The district worked around the clock to make that facility ready for folks. The teachers made it absolutely beautiful for the students.”

He returned to the school at the end of the day, where students were enjoying the playground and parents had gathered to talk.

Mr. Kamras said the goal is to get Fox reopened in fall 2024, but so much is still up in the air. The fire investigation continues as debris is being removed from the burned structure, which he said needs to be stabilized. Asbestos also must be removed before any rebuilding can start, he said.

“We’re still many months away from even being able to start the process of the renovation,” he told the Free Press. “I don’t think we should commit to any timelines until we know exactly what that’s going to look like.”

Meanwhile, the Strawberry Street Festival, which is held annually at Fox Elementary School, was moved last Saturday to Clark Springs, where strawberries, live music, carnival games and food trucks drew hundreds of people. Proceeds from the event go to the Fox PTA.