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Schools need $80 million facelift

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – Richmond Public schools faces an $80 million dilemma to fix city schools. Even as Mayor Dwight Jones opens two new city schools, parents say some kids are still suffering throughout the district.

“Besides the education, they need to be able to be comfortable in the classroom,” said Denitre Lipscomb.

Denitre Lipscomb said her 7th grader complains about the lack of heating and air-conditioning at Binford Middle.

“It’s a shame that they don’t get to have a chance to be able to focus on stuff like they want to because that school is so dilapidated,” she said.

The problems don’t stop with Binford Middle. A Virginia Beach engineering firm prepared a 91-page report that points out how 49 schools in the school system need a total of $80-million dollars’ worth of repairs and renovations.

These are schools that most of the district’s 23,000 students attend.

“It is on some level alarming that there’s that much capital need in the school systems,” said Jeffrey Bourne, Richmond School Board Chair.

According to the report, those costly needs include everything from an outdated electrical system at Carver Elementary to replacing cast iron pipes throughout Ginter Park Elementary.

The report also cites other needs like new boilers and roofs on school buildings.

“Obviously, we have a lot of challenges. We have a lot of work to do.  And we’ve been hard at it for the last month,” said Bourne.

Richmond Public schools has already spent millions of dollars to make this school and others compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.  But many problems still exist, inside the buildings.  And school administrators say repairs need to be made to keep them open.

We asked school board chair Jeffrey Bourne where the money will come from.

“We’ve got to squeeze every nickel that we have and make priority investments.  In addition, I think we got to try and find some alternative ways to do some of this capital maintenance,” said Bourne.

So, would it mean closing more schools to reduce the cost? With the schools being rezoned that could be an option, said Bourne.

“The rezoning process will allow us an opportunity to really consider all of those factors whether it’s capacity, whether it’s maintenance needs, Capital needs,” said Bourne.

And parent Denitre Lipscomb says she wants to help too.

“I’m willing to volunteer and willing to help in any way I can.  Fundraisers maybe you know trying to help put monies into the school,” said Lipscomb.

Here’s a link to the report in it’s entirety: Facilities Infrastructure Assessment Combined.