RICHMOND, Va. — It's been nearly three months since a massive fire destroyed Richmond's Fox Elementary School. Monday, students and teachers moved into their new temporary home — Clark Springs Elementary.
Superintendent Jason Kamras, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, Fox Principal Daniela Jacobs and school board representatives welcomed students to their new home with high fives, as a DJ played fun music and Franklin Military Academy students created a sword arch for them to walk under.
Fox parents like Amelia Boschen, who's also the incoming PTA president, said they are extremely grateful that First Baptist has been letting them use their church space for the past several weeks. But Bouchon noted the building, understandably, hasn’t had all of the things teachers and students need.
"Being a facility that wasn't necessarily set up for an everyday full-time elementary school, there are certain limitations that we experienced over there," said Boschen. "And we're looking forward to just getting to a space where we have, you know, a classroom for every class, get desk for every student, recreational area, places to go for recess."
Friday, Fox teachers moved their belongings into the newly renovated Clark Springs.
"These teachers are being asked to do way more, as teachers always are," Boschen explained. "But I feel like this is even a more unique situation than ever before what Fox teachers have been asked to do, just in terms of rolling with the punches, again, making sure our kids get what they need day to day, in in really challenging circumstances."
Over the past month, Richmond Public Schools has invested $800,000 in repairs and upgrades, including electrical work, fresh paint, exterior doors, ceiling tiles, mold removal and a new fire panel.
“Not only is the facility in a great shape, but the teachers have made every classroom come alive in truly magical ways," said Kamras. "We cannot thank them enough for all the transitions that they've gone through to support their kids.”
🦊 @ Clark Springs is now open! Enormous love and gratitude to Principal Jacobs, Fox teachers/staff, our construction team (led by - wait for it - Dana Fox), and most of all, our students and families! @RPS_Schools @LevarStoney #TeachWithLove pic.twitter.com/kQLoc2cBkF— Jason Kamras (@JasonKamras) May 9, 2022
Boschen said while she’s eager for a new roof and gym floor to be installed at Clark Springs this summer, she feels confident the space is ready for the hundreds of children heading there this morning.
"None of us were expecting anything really beyond, you know, a safe, well-resourced space, because it's so important for us to just get our kids back into a productive learning environment," she noted. "And they've really certainly done that. So we're really, really pleased."
Boschen said while her kids are excited for their first day at Clark Springs, they are also eager to finally see work being done to stabilize the Fox building.
"It has been hard to need to walk by that building and see, seemingly, you know, not a lot happening and feeling like somebody help our building, please," said Boschen. "So to see people over there working, progress happening, I know that some items were able to be removed from that building earlier this week, and that's just really heartening be able to save some items and starting to give some love to the building. That gives us a lot of hope, and that's going to help us keep going through this continued transition."
Monday morning, Superintendent Jason Kamras, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, Fox Principal Daniela Jacobs, and school board representatives will be at Clark Springs to welcome students. CBS 6 there and will bring you the latest on your News at Noon.
NOW: Teachers and staff get ready to welcome Fox Elementary School students to their new home at Clark Springs Elementary, three months after a fire destroyed their school. @CBS6 will have Superintendent @JasonKamras’s message to families on your News at Noon. pic.twitter.com/sMOuvwpvPd— Caroline Coleburn (@CColeburnTV) May 9, 2022
Clark Springs will be the home of Fox until their current building can be restored. The initial goal for that to happen was Fall of 2024, but the fire investigation is still underway.
"We're still many months away from even being able to begin the process of the renovation," Kamras explained. "I think it's going to be quite some time, and I don't think we should commit to any timelines just yet until we know exactly what that's going to look like."
For now, Fox students, parents and teachers seem relieved to get back to a routine, and while tragic, they believe the fire has made their community and children stronger.
"Watching our kids grow over the last couple of years with COVID and virtual learning and then this, I can't imagine the memories that our kids are going to be taking from this experience," said mom Kristen Harrison.
Superintendent Kamras noted Monday while the roof at Clark Springs has been patched, it will eventually need to be replaced. There have been talks of that potentially happening over the summer months.
WTVR.COM IN-DEPTH COVERAGE: Fox Elementary School Fire
- Richmond leaders optimistic about Fox rebuild: 'The money is there'
- Parents, school leaders rally outside school one year after fire: 'We still want to build Fox'
- One year after a devastating school fire, teacher makes emotional return
- Parents still hopeful Fox Elementary will be rebuilt one year after devastating fire
- Renderings show new Fox Elementary School; construction timeline unclear
- 'Inspectors found faulty Fox alarm panel 6 months before Richmond school fire
- 10 Richmond schools have fire alarm panels too old to reprogram
- Fox fire response was hindered because somebody didn't reprogram alarm panel
- Fox Elementary alarm failure: 'I don't want someone to get fired, but if that's what it takes'
- Why emergency radios were not monitored by Richmond Schools night of 'catastrophic' fire
- RPS releases security footage from night of Fox fire
- How community is rallying to support Fox Elementary
- RPS will get 'significantly' more than estimated from insurance company
- How the $150,000+ raised for Fox Elementary will be spent
- Veteran teacher can 'feel the love' after fire destroys historic school
- How Richmond Schools are tightening security after Fox fire
- His great-grandfather designed Fox Elementary. Now a piece of his DNA is buried in the ashes.