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Parent on Fox fire investigation: 'Be upfront and honest'

Fox Elementary fire drone 08.jpg
Posted at 8:13 PM, Apr 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-13 20:13:40-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Following a CBS 6 Problem Solvers report about a delay in the Richmond Fire Department's investigation at William Fox Elementary School, parents are speaking out with several concerns.

They've said they're frustrated with what they called "continued delays" in making progress stabilizing and preserving the historic school.

On Tuesday, more than two months after the fire, a spokesperson for Richmond Fire said it cannot finish its investigation into the cause until Fox is stabilized because parts of the building investigators want to access are too dangerous to reach.

Spokesperson for Richmond Public Schools, Sarah Abubaker, told CBS 6 fire officials determined the building to be structurally unstable in late March.

She said RPS submitted paperwork to the city by March 31 to obtain permits for stabilization, but the city then requested additional drawings of the stabilization plan.

Abubaker said the additional documents were submitted on April 11 and said the city could take up to two weeks to process and approve the application. Abubaker praised the city's cooperation with the school district and called it a testament to great multi-agency teamwork.

Once the building is stabilized, Abubaker said RPS will first conduct asbestos mitigation, then put up a temporary roof, and then address mold issues.

Meanwhile, the Fox PTA President, Katie Ricard, said every day that passes and Fox isn't covered, parents have growing concerns about mold and the building falling apart.

In fact, she said the principal went inside the building over spring break to try and salvage memorabilia, but it was moldy and damp. Ricard also said she wants the fire department to release control of the building as soon as possible so they can collect and use their picnic tables sitting on the lawn.

Another Fox parent, Boz Boschen, said he's frustrated with an apparent lack of urgency and transparency from the fire department.

“All I would ask is just be upfront and honest with us about what's going on," Boschen said. "I personally don't see any reason that the fire investigation would be on hold or there would not be urgency behind that because everybody understands the importance of that."

RPS said the pause in the fire investigation was expected and nothing to be concerned about but Boschen said he still has several questions regarding the delay.

"I would be extremely concerned about what that means for the insurance and what it means for rebuilding our timeline," he said. "If this building collapses, what does that mean if we don't get access to the building to stabilize it.”

Boschen said he appreciates the weekly Fox town halls from the RPS administration and said school board members and council members have sometimes chimed in to provide information. However, Boschen would like to see a more coordinated communication strategy.

"I don't want to feel like I'm waiting on another surprise, where there's a gotcha around the corner that they weren't communicating about," Boschen said. "We're all adults. Everybody's making their own decisions, but in the absence of information, people are going to draw their own conclusions."

CBS 6 reached out to the fire department with follow-up questions regarding its delay in the investigation again on Wednesday, but we have not heard back.

In a previous statement, the fire department said it's common for fire investigations to take longer than expected.

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