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Richmond Rezoning Committee Suggests More School Pairings To Increase Diversity

john b cary elementary school sign

The idea of pairing Fox and Cary Elementary has gotten a lot of attention already. Tuesday night, Richmond’s rezoning committee suggested the district consider pairing more than just those two schools to increase student diversity.

That recommendation came after Richmond’s consultant Matthew Cropper presented four draft rezoning options, two that included pairing Cary and Fox, and two that didn’t.

“Pairing is a new concept for Richmond,” Cropper said. “It’s going to take some preparation to implement, but it is a successful method schools use across the country.”

Cropper said New Hanover County in North Carolina is also currently considering school pairing to increase student diversity. He’s also worked with states like Louisiana and Alabama that have implemented it through court-ordered desegregation.

After going over the rezoning options, he told committee members to work in small groups to talk about what they did and didn’t like, and what they’d like to see in the next round of options that’ll go to the public in August.

Rezoning committee member Kim Gomez is on the rezoning committee. She’s also a parent of three Richmond kids, and says she thinks the district should consider pairing Mary Munford Elementary with another school. Mary Munford is 72% white.

“If it’s something that’s feasible...let’s look at that [pairing] beyond the Fox, Cary situation," Gomez said. "I feel like we're going to have more buy-in [with school pairing]. If it’s something that’s feasible...let’s look at that beyond the Fox, Cary situation.” 

There were also concerns about the potential negative impacts of pairing. Richmond school board member Felicia Cosby worried about the added transition for students. She said transitioning kids from preschool, to another school for grades K-2 and to another for grades 3-5 is too much.

“If we’re really going to be serious about a pairing option, pre-K – in my opinion – has to be in the equation,” Cosby said.

The district’s consultant Matthew Cropper said that’s something that could be looked at on an individual school level based on capacity, but not districtwide.

Committee member Sharon Burton said she didn’t like the pairing of Woodville and Fairfield Court that was proposed to help address capacity issues, not diversity. 

“If I am a mother of three children and I’m working three jobs and I have one child at Fairfield in a K-2 situation and another one in Woodville in a 3-5, possibly another child at MLK, that’s a hardship on me,” Burton said. “And I know that you want me to be involved in the school as much as possible, and so now I’m spreading myself in a very thin way.” 

Burton did express support for pairing schools for the purpose of increasing student diversity. 

“If you’re looking at diversity, please consider Carver Elementary in some of that pairing,” Burton said. 

Cropper said at least one of the draft rezoning plans he’ll present to the public next month will include multiple school pairing options.

“Based on the committee’s direction tonight, there will be a series of pairing to consider,” Cropper said. “It’ll be Munford and Cary, Fox and Carver, Ginter Park and Holton. And the first attempt for the Holton area is Obama, Ginter Park and Holton as two K-2s and one 3-5 building. If that doesn’t pass the test in terms of utilization, then we’ll look at a Ginter Park and Holton pairing.” 



Megan Pauly reports on early childhood and higher education news in Virginia
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