Following another wave of protests, the Richmond City Council voted to again delay the vote that would determine the closing of six Richmond public schools until May 9.
The debate to potentially close schools arose in light of an $18 million budget shortfall earlier this year. Many protesters were present at the April 25 meeting during which the vote was originally scheduled to take place. Among them was Kevin Lauray, a father of two with a third child on the way. Lauray said although his children do not attend any of the schools at risk of closing, he is in support of the students.
“I think it’s really wrong what they are doing to the kids,” Lauray said. “It’s not affecting our school, but it’s affecting schools, so it’s affecting kids, so it’s affecting me.”
Lauray joined more than 100 protesters in the march from Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School to City Hall for the April 25 meeting. Lauray said that he experienced jail time during his youth and believes that if he had a better education, he would not have “landed that way”.
“If I can do anything to help the kids not go down the same road I went down, I will,” Lauray said.
Some public officials, including Mayor Dwight C. Jones, have said school closures may be inevitable as Richmond seeks to consolidate numerous facilities to save money.
The cost-saving measure has been proposed as a longterm plan that Chris Lampardi, one of the protest’s organizers and teacher at Munford Elementary school, believes needs more time for proper implementation.
“Anytime you close the schools prematurely before the school system ready to do it is a disruption to people’s lives,” Lampardi said.
Mayoral candidate and Open High School teacher Chad Ingold also joined the protesters on their march to City Hall. Ingold believes that increase in student bodies due to school closures will negatively impact students and their education.
“I do not think it’s good to play budget games with the lives of our children,” Ingold said.
After 40 minutes of awards and proclamations, the council announced they were again postponing the vote on school funding. This caused an uproar from the crowd of protesters who filled the council chambers and overflow rooms.
A woman in the crowd addressed the council, saying she was saddened and shocked by their move.
“It takes a village to raise a child, and I can’t believe I am standing here because selfish people are trying to close the schools,” she said. “If you have a heart, you need to keep the schools open.”
Another protester, Alejandro Sosa, said the city’s actions were “stereotypical, political and self-interested.”
“You just went through the list and were happy that you did not have to address any questions,” Sosa said. “If you don’t fundraise for public schools you are not investing in the community.”
According to council member Reva Trammell, protesters need more information on what it will take to close the $18 million budget gap.
“I want to know, the parents want to know, the teachers want to know, we got to have that information,” Trammell said. “We got to have more information, we are not trying to take the money away from you all, we want the schools to have more money.”
City Council President Michelle Mosby indicated the Richmond Public School’s administration had been dishonest with the protestors and the council and that the school board did not spend money appropriately in the past.
“A lot of the things we give the money for, we are anticipating the school board to do the things we gave them the money to, and they are not happening,” Mosby said. “We gave them $9 million last year, we took it from every single department last year, and many of the things we were told was going to happen did not happen.”
The misinformation Mosby was referring to made protest organizer and teacher at Fox Elementary, Keri Tredway, leave the meeting feeling disheartened.
“Right now there is a lot of hearsay,” Tredway said. “There is a lot of accusations being thrown and at this point in the game everyone needs to be on the same page.”
Online News Editor, Andrew Crider
Andrew is a junior economics major who has written for student newspapers since he was in high school. Andrew is interested in political history, aviation, photography and running. He has a tendency to refer to his peers, coworkers and bosses as “ma’am” or “sir,” but is getting better about referring to his friends at the CT by their first names instead. // Facebook