Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Fox Elementary students find a temporary home at First Baptist

Building with fire damage
William Fox Elementary School, which burned down last month, now stands fenced off. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

The students of William Fox Elementary School have found a temporary home at First Baptist Church in Richmond after a fire burned down their school building last month.

Richmond School Board members voted unanimously to accept a proposal by Superintendent Jason Kamras to relocate Fox students on Monday. Since the fire, Fox students have been attending classes virtually. Kamras says that by Monday, March 21, full-day, in-person classes will resume for these students and their teachers.

“That would give the next two weeks for first, the Fox team to be able to go over to First Baptist to see the space, and then starting next week in the afternoons, to begin room setup,” Kamras said.

First Baptist Church, located in Richmond’s Fan District at 2709 Monument Ave, was founded in 1780. It was the first church of any denomination formed in the capital city. The church began with 14 worshipers, and its congregation has since grown to over 2,000 members.

While he’s looking forward to resuming classes, Kamras said the church is by no means a permanent home for Fox students. He said while they work and learn at the new location, classroom environments will be a bare-bones operation for both teachers and students.

“This won't be the same setup…as you would do with your normal classroom,” Kamras said. “The goal here is to be in person with kids. And so really, it's going to be about the minimum needed to effectuate that. It's not about making beautiful bulletin boards and anchor charts left and right, all the things that great teachers love to do. That's not what this is going to be.”

While classes resume at the church, Kamras’ plan is to begin work on renovating a different Richmond Public Schools property to more permanently house students while Fox Elementary is rebuilt. Clark Springs Elementary, located near Hollywood Cemetery at 1101 Dance St, is currently abandoned. But Kamras says with some investment, the school can provide a slightly more permanent solution for Fox students and staff.

“In a parallel track, we are working on all of the renovations for Clark Springs,” Kamras said.

Last month the board allocated $500,000 of its capital fund towards the cost of renovating wherever Fox students are relocated to. Under Kamras’ proposed relocation plan, he expects those renovations to be complete by April 19. At that point, Kamras said the Fox community can either decide to move into the school or finish their semester, which ends June 24, at the church. Either way, Kamras’ plan is to relocate all Fox students to Clark Springs by the start of the next school year.

“Starting next fall, Fox would be at Clark Springs and would remain there until Fox is rebuilt,” Kamras said.

Katherine Ricard is a member of the Fox PTA and a parent of two Fox Elementary School students. She was among several commenters during the meeting Monday who expressed support for Kamras’ plan

“With the fire, established routines have been disrupted, creating instability for our families. We need a return to stability and being back in the classroom provides us with that. For that reason, we are supporting a move to a temporary space until Clark Springs becomes ready,” Ricard said.

The superintendent and school board members have agreed that they ultimately want to rebuild Fox Elementary at 2300 Hanover Avenue. But in the meantime, board members and Kamras said they’re grateful to First Baptist Church for opening their doors to Fox families and teachers.

“I'm extraordinarily grateful to the First Baptist Church. They have been inviting, welcoming, creative, flexible and truly have acted with love, which is exactly what we are trying to do at RPS as well,” Kamras said. 

Related Stories