Richmond school superintendent unsure how long $105,000 ‘Band-Aid’ will last

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Shortly after he greeted children on their first day of school at George Mason Elementary, interim Superintendent of Richmond Schools Tommy Kranz focused on the need for more money to repair and maintain the city's aging schools.

Mason Elementary, a 95-year-old school in Church Hill, underwent $105,000 worth of repairs over Summer break.

Work that amounts to a Band-Aid, temporarily fixing the problems.

"How long will these repairs last?" the interim Superintendent asked. "I can't tell you. There's only so much dollars to spread around."

In the past, parents and teachers have demanded for a new school to be built to replace Mason.

They've reported issues with mice inside the school, leaking and broken air conditioners, falling ceiling tiles, overflowing toilets, and the smell of natural gas and heat.

"They need to tear the school down and building a whole new one," frustrated parent Ebony Taylor said.

Taylor said her daughter, who was beginning the first grade at George Mason, was even bit by bed bugs after the school system reported fumigating the building.

Kranz said there was no evidence of natural gas in the building and environmental experts have deemed the school safe.

School administration recommended building a new school, adjacent to the current one.

That plan would cost the city between $22 and $35 million.

Kranz told CBS 6 the needed repairs that were troubling students and teachers were completed, but more work was needed. He said the school system intended to spend another $25,000 when all was said and done.

"One of the biggest issues we had was with the heating systems," Kranz said. "We checked everything and took it apart. They're all working, but they're older units. They're working today, but I'm not promising tomorrow."

During a tour of George Mason Elementary Tuesday, Kranz heard from crews that a cooling tower at Blackwell Elementary School failed while students were entering the building. He cited the constant issues and an aging infrastructure as a need for more funding from city leaders.

The School Board voted to make the East End school a priority for next school year. School leaders will present a new proposal at an October 16 meeting. School leaders say they would do everything in their power to work with Richmond City Council to find funding to build a new school.