Should Virginia help pay to rebuild Fox Elementary? What happens if lawmakers say 'no'?

Posted at 4:17 PM, Jan 27, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- Del. Jeff Bourne (D - Richmond) admitted it would be an "uphill battle" to convince the House Appropriations Committee to give Richmond Public Schools $15 million to rebuild William Fox Elementary in Richmond. Still, Bourne, who served on the Richmond School Board before becoming a state lawmaker, said he remained hopeful.

"I hope it would be the pleasure of this body, the House of Delegates, the General Assembly to help Richmond and the school students there weather what was an unthinkable fire and not anything anybody asked for," Bourne told the committee.

Bourne said the $15 million would cover the difference between what insurance will cover and what the city said it needed to rebuild the fire-damaged Fan elementary school

Richmond School Board Member Jonathan Young said he hoped the General Assembly approved Bourne's request.

"Absent monies from the legislature, i.e. from the Commonwealth of Virginia, we will likely be unable to rebuild that school in order for our students to resume instruction on Hanover Avenue as soon as we would all prefer," Young said.

If the state does not approve the funds, Young said Richmond Schools could try to litigate the matter with the insurance company. But, he said issues that the CBS 6 Problem Solvers uncovered, like a faulty fire alarm panel at the school, could hinder efforts.

"Because of it, arguably, our hand is not what it should be relative to negotiations," Young said. "I'm not going to tell your listeners anything they don't already know because of your terrific reporting."

Richmond School Board Member Jonathan Young

Richmond Schools could ask the city for the money. But if City Hall cannot fill the financial void. Young said Richmond Schools might have to pull money from other building projects like a new George Wythe High School and a new Career Technical Education High School.

Richmond City Council President Mike Jones said the city council has not even discussed the topic.

The Problem Solvers asked Governor Glenn Youngkin (R - Virginia) if he supported giving state money to Richmond Public Schools to help the Fox rebuild. The Problem Solvers are awaiting a response from the Governor's Office.

A late-evening fire on Friday, February 11, 2022, destroyed the historic school in Richmond. In July 2022, the Richmond Fire Department (RFD) said the fire was accidental and the cause could not be determined.

Extensive CBS 6 Problem Solvers reporting detailed challenges that prevented the Richmond Fire Department from completing annual safety inspections at the school in the days, weeks, and months leading up to the fire.

Depend on CBS 6 News and for in-depth coverage of this important local story. Anyone with more information can email to send a tip.

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