Richmond student hit as part of ceiling falls

Posted at 7:57 PM, Mar 14, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-15 20:48:10-04

A child was struck by a ceiling tile in one of the classrooms during an afterschool program at Fairfield Court Elementary, school leaders confirmed.

"I was frustrated to find out that there was an incident that should've been fixed last year,” said Laleta Fritz, concerned parent.

The decrepit conditions still visible in the school now a year later after parents alerted us to the problem.

"Nobody, wanted to talk to me at that moment.  And so, I had to take matters into my own hands,” said Fritz.

Laleta Fritz took pictures and started calling school officials.

"They said if it continues, keep calling them and let them know of any damage or any other hazards that would happen,” she said. “And then they would make some moves.”

“And sure enough an incident happened with a student at the afterschool program,” Fritz said.

We asked Richmond Public Schools spokesperson Felicia Cosby why the problems haven’t been fixed.

“Well, yes, we have been working on the roof at Fairfield,” Cosby said. “We’re just not going to patch it because it’s proven to be ineffective.”

“With the inclement weather that we've had, the high amount of precipitation that we've had, we continue to have leaks,” Cosby said.

Cosby said that the superintendent has taken emergency measures to replace the roof.  She said that Dr. Dana Bedden has re-allocated money previously assigned for other projects.

Cosby said crews repaired a portion of it last year, but cracks were found  in other sections, and work was planned during Spring Break.

“We’re looking at the challenges of aging facilities combined with deferred maintenance due to budget constraints,” said Cosby.

Tuesday, Fairfield Court Elementary students will be bussed to Clark Springs Elementary until crews have completed the work.

Fairfield Elementary is just one example of poor school conditions.  John Marshall and George Wythe high had reports of physical education classes in disrepair, and rodents in locker rooms.

“No child should ever have to suffer going to school. I think children should have a right to have clean, safe learning environment," said Kim Gray, Second District School Board member. “And that's what our aim is.”

“We're going to focus on getting our environment up to par,” she added.

Gray said the school board is creating a task force to look at all of the school maintenance issues.

“We have to get a plan to start taking these buildings off-line and putting new buildings in their place,” Gray said.

And the public will be involved in the process too.

School leaders estimate that it will cost roughly $100 million to fix the problems that exist in city schools, and for routine maintenance needed for Richmond’s four dozen school buildings.

Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones presented his budget this week, and it calls for a huge increase for school maintenance; from $500,000 to five million.

Fritz is relieved RPS is finally doing something about the issues at Fairfield Elementary.

“I’m glad that they jumped to it, after me pressing the issue that it needs to be done,” she said. “Nobody should have to sit in school with the school torn down like that.”