River City overcrowding stems back to school board's 2019 rezoning decisions

River City overcrowding stems back to school board's 2019 rezoning decisions
Posted at 5:04 PM, Apr 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-29 17:52:34-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond dad Bryce Lyle follows his school board closely and remembers rezoning discussions back in 2019 when the school board attempted to redraw neighborhood lines to ensure schools had an equitable distribution of students.

"That's the thing, nobody talked about Southside," Lyle said.

Lyle lives in Westover Hills and was particularly interested in what would happen south of the river, but he said other schools dominated the discussion.

"They had so many meetings to talk about Munford and they didn't talk about the Southside at all," Lyle said.

School Board member Jonathan Young, who represents the 4th district which is south of the river, said Superintendent Jason Kamras's 2019 proposal to combine student populations from socioeconomically different schools, like Munford and Cary, caused the Southside to take a back seat.

"My point is that it sucked all of the oxygen out of the room, very little conversation pertained to secondary schools and to Southside," Young said.

The board ultimately approved "Option Y" in a 5-4 vote, with current school board members Liz Doerr, Dawn Page and Cheryl Burke voting yes, and Jonathan Young and Kenya Gibson voting no.

"We have arrived here because, candidly, the school board in 2019 failed," Young said.

This is part of what has led to the situation at the new River City Middle School. The school is already overcrowded while other middle schools in the district sit well below capacity.

"I applaud and appreciate that the school system tried to give as many kids as possible the opportunity to go to the new school but obviously they overdid it and it needs to be fixed," Lyle said.

First District school board member Liz Doerr, who voted for "option Y," said that was the best option for her district.

"I was responsible for taking care of my district, and the West End, and I am very proud of the work we were able to do there," Doerr said.

She said trying to forecast the growth on the Southside has been a persistent challenge for the board.

"We need to learn from demographic trends in our city and how we run a good rezoning process and make sure we don't repeat the mistakes of the past," Doerr said.

The mistakes Bryce Lyle, whose home is currently zoned for River City but would be rezoned under the current proposal, hopes will be remedied in a few days.

"I hope the school board will vote for the rezoning on Monday," Lyle said.

Both Jonathan Young and Liz Doerr, who have disagreed on the rezoning of River City to date, said the board will vote yes on a rezoning solution for River City on Monday.

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