End of Richmond school’s open enrollment program?

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)—Decisions to close and consolidate schools in Richmond, amid budgets shortfalls, means that some people might not be able to chose their children’s school.

Elizabeth Verser has three girls who attend Richmond’s William Fox Elementary School, even though the family lives in Woodland Heights and is zoned for another school.

“They love the school, they really do well there,” Verser said.

But a plan to potentially close four Richmond elementary schools has put the Verser family in a bind.  The girls are able to attend Fox because of the school district’s open enrollment program, which allow families to apply for schools outside their district.

The Verser family recently moved away from the Fox district, but only after being reassured the girls could still attend Fox as long as they lived within city limits.

“We definitely considered that when moving to Woodland Heights out of zone, so now we’re stuck in a predicament,” Verser said.

Earlier this month a re-zoning committee recommended that the school district close John B. Cary Elementary, along with Summer Hill and Bellevue Elementary.  Fisher and Southampton schools would also consolidate into one school.

While open enrollment slots could be impacted at several schools, Fox would feel the biggest hit since nearly half of the students who attend the school live outside the school district.

If John B. Cary closes its doors, those students will be moved into the Fox district.

“So there won’t be enough spots for the children to be grandfathered in that were told they could stay at Fox,” Verser said.

School Board Member Kim Gray said a budget crisis has left the school district with little choice but to close underutilized schools.  However, she believes the schools can be closed without affecting students currently benefiting from the open enrollment program. 
 
“I see a more conservative approach to it,” said Gray. “I think it would be disruptive if we all of a sudden said ‘sorry, you’re not welcome here.’”   

Verser said her family would like to be grandfathered in, but said it’s still a shame for the families who would like to have more options for their children in the future.

“I think parents make decisions on what’s best for their children.”  Verser said.

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