VCU proposes plan to turn historically black Moore St. School into child development center

Illustration by Kamryn Gillham

Katharine DeRosa, Contributing Writer

A former historically black school adjacent to G.W. Carver Elementary may be refurbished to serve communities on the northside of Richmond.

The VCU School of Education has expressed interest in transforming Moore Street School into an expansion of VCU’s Child Development Center — at zero cost to families zoned for Carver Elementary — according to a draft agreement between VCU, the Richmond School Board and the City of Richmond.

The project has not been finalized and is still in the development phase, as the school board is yet to vote on the issue.

Councilwoman Kim Gray has been vocal about her hopes for the project.

“We’re pushing very hard for them to make a decision,” Gray said.

With the plan from the School of Education, VCU’s Childhood Development Center would expand beyond serving primarily VCU staff. According to the draft plan, it has not allowed for much racial, ethnic and economic diversity among the children and families.

The plan must be approved by the school board and the city of Richmond, which owns the property.

“It’s not set in stone,” Gray said. “It’s a concept.”

Even if the building were obtained by VCU, it would still have to go under renovations before it could be functional.

The School of Education declined to comment, stating the project is still under development.

Archived photo of Moore Street School students in 1916. “Open air” schools provided fresh air to at-risk children as part of efforts to prevent the spread of tuberculosis. Photo courtesy of the Cook Collection, The Valentine.

Moore Street School was built in 1887 and was one of the first schools for black children in the area.

The plan involves expanding Moore Street School to accommodate 148 children: 60 children of VCU faculty and staff, 40 non-VCU children and 48 children from families zoned for Carver Elementary, according to the draft agreement.

The children from the area zoned for Carver Elementary would be given free tuition and continue their education at Carver Elementary.

A neighborhood profile done by the Richmond Federal Reserve in 2017 showed that 54.1% of the families in Carver neighborhood are cost-burdened, meaning that 30% or more of their income is spent on housing. This rate is 8.2 percentage points above the cost-burdened rate across the entire city of Richmond. 

“I think it’s kind of one of those full-circle stories,” Gray said of the plan that will allow Moore Street School to provide once again for a largely black community.

The Child Development Center would work with children ages 18 months to 5 years old, which Gray said would be beneficial later in life.

“It instills a love of learning at an early age, and that’s a strong foundation on which we can build,” Gray said. “It’s high-quality development services.”

In addition to working with the development center in Moore Street School, VCU’s plan would provide resources for Carver Elementary faculty and staff in order to promote the “educational and psychological needs” of students.

The draft plan states that VCU would provide 40 hours of professional development per year for this additional purpose. 

In addition to working with the development center in Moore Street School, VCU plans to provide resources for Carver Elementary faculty and staff in order to promote the “educational and psychological needs” of students. Photo by Alessandro Latour

In addition to the Child Development Center, VCU plans to create a Center for Urban Education and Family to establish a two-generational approach for students and their families.

This approach is a way of disrupting the cycle of poverty that targets both children and adults in low-income neighborhoods, according to the Urban Institute think tank in D.C.

According to the draft agreement, the center would focus on “educational attainment, economic mobility, and individual and family well-being” for children zoned to go to Carver Elementary.

Moore Street School was initially built as a 16-classroom, two-story building facing Moore Street. It eventually became Carver Elementary in 1951, when an addition was built on Leigh Street to become the new front. Carver Elementary is now at 1110 W. Leigh St.

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