RICHMOND, Va. -- The superintendent of Richmond Public Schools (RPS) will recommend William Fox Elementary students shift from virtual classes to attend in-person learning temporarily at First Baptist Church, according to documents posted online ahead of Monday's school board meeting.
The students were displaced after a catastrophic fire ripped through the 110-year-old beloved school in Richmond's Fan neighborhood last month.
"A survey of Fox families indicated near unanimous support for moving into a physical location as soon as possible," RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras wrote in a briefing set to be presented to the school board. "Fox teachers and staff were nearly evenly split about whether to remain virtual until Clark Springs is ready."
Kamras cited an "overwhelming desire of families to end virtual" and "no clear consensus from staff" in his decision. So after consulting with the school's principal, Daniela Jacobs, Kamras said the district recommends "moving Fox to a stop-gap physical location as soon as possible."
First Baptist Church on Monument Avenue was the district's pick after reviewing "several stop-gap options."
While Kamras said First Baptist Church would not charge RPS any rent, the church is requesting $5,000 to cover expenses, which school officials called a "very reasonable request."
"The Administration would like to formally express our profound gratitude to the First Baptist community for generously offering to host Fox through the end of the school year, if so desired," Kamras wrote.
School board member Jonathan Young said relocating to the church "makes all the sense in the world."
"From the start my priorities included relocating to a physical space asap, a property in near proximity to Fox, and a location that could accommodate the entire Fox community," Young wrote. "First Baptist does all three. Thank you First Baptist for living out James Chapter II."
In a proposed timeline, Kamras said Fox staff will visit First Baptist to see the space this week. Teachers would begin setting up in the afternoons the following week.
Monday, March 21 would be the first in-person day of classes at First Baptist.
Administrators said they hope to have Clark Springs, which was shuttered by the district several in 2014, "ready for occupancy" on Tuesday, April 19.
"If the Fox community wants to move at this juncture, it would be able to do so," Kamras wrote. "But it could also choose to remain at First Baptist for the remainder of the year. We will survey families and staff in early April before making this decision."
Kamras noted that Fox Elementary would be located at Clark Springs from Fall 2022 until the school is rebuilt at its current site, according to the presentation.
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