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Protests outside City Hall Over re-opening of school

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RICHMOND, VA (WTVR) – Protesters gathered outside City Hall Wednesday to complain about the re-opening of Norrell Elementary School.

Preschoolers, about 260 three and four-year olds, are expected to enter the school next Monday.

Norrell closed in 2006 because of environmental concerns.

“I’m concerned about the toxic gases that are released under the ground,” one protestor told CBS 6.

The protest is ahead of this evening’s school board meeting where the board is expected to re-visit the decision to re-open it.

The School District’s administration is recommending that the plan to re-open the school continue – emphasizing that there is no danger.

“This school is very safe,” Andy Hawkins, Chief Operating Officer for Richmond Schools told CBS 6.

“We've been testing for about six weeks, we've done tests twice a week for the last six weeks and found nothing,” Hawkins added.

Still school board members and the community are worried.

“It’s questionable and when it comes to our children we can't take chances with our health and safety,” Kimberly Gray, a school board member, told CBS 6.

Dr. Chris Stevenson, director of the environmental studies program at the University of Richmond, says people have valid reason to be concerned.

“They've done plenty of studies on the effect of proximity. Those studies indicate small children and pregnant woman are generally those who the community should be most worried about,” Dr. Stevenson said.

Still the school district says there is no reason to be concerned.

“Please rest assure that we have the well-being of your children foremost in our minds,” Hawkins said.