Richmond School Board rejects resolutions that would address mold, fire safety issues

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Posted at 11:03 PM, Nov 06, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- On Monday night, Richmond's School Board voted against a motion to approve two resolutions that would create new policies regarding mold prevention, fire safety, and other facility concerns.

The resolutions, proposed by the Richmond Education Association, were brought before the Board to "establish clear and uniform safety standards for all schools," regarding fire safety and air quality, according to the REA.

“At the beginning of the school year, we had 190 fire violations. And so, we can’t downplay those. Fire safety is fire safety for a reason," said REA Vice President Anne Forrester. "And if we have violations, no matter how severe they are, that’s just not acceptable.”

Forrester said the resolutions would create policies on enforcement, checking standards, making sure schools are up to code, and employing safe operations standards.

"This is a widespread issue, and we recognize that it goes beyond the school board, it goes beyond RPS, but we still have an obligation to have clear policies," Forrester said.

Boushall Middle, Fox Elementary at Clark Springs, and Mary Scott Preschool have all been tested and treated for mold. 

Blackwell Preschool, Maymont Preschool, Summer Hill Preschool, Elizabeth D. Redd Elementary and Woodville Elementary School are awaiting final reports from a full building test. 

Seventeen other schools have requested mold testing. 

The full report and costs associated can be found here

Mold and fire safety weren't the only concerns several teachers shared at Monday night's meeting. 

During public comment, several teachers spoke about excessive heat in their classrooms, with one teacher saying her classroom was 90 degrees. 

"I've lost count of how many times I've had to grab my students and their laptops, set up in another hopefully cooler space in the school," said Emily Spencer, a teacher a Fox Elementary who works with students with special needs. "This year alone, we've worked in the cafeteria, the hallway, the office, the gym, and have even attempted to work in the nurse's office." 

Superintendent Jason Kamras addressed concerns about the excessive heat, noting that the district's facilities department is short-staffed. He also mentioned maintenance takes time. 

"I don't want any child or any teacher to be in an uncomfortable room," Kamras said. "I think the issue is, how do we get there as quickly as possible." 

During an update on the schools that have been tested or have requested testing for mold, Board Member Kenya Gibson made a motion to approve the two revised resolutions brought forth by the REA, reading them aloud. 

The motion was made during the board's last meeting and was also voted down. 

Only Gibson and Board Member Jonathan Young voted to approve the motion during this most recent meeting. 

All other members voted the motion down, citing the need for more information about the revised resolutions and suggesting Superintendent Kamras would meet with REA to come to an agreement. 

"We want to wait until Mr. Kamras can have a meeting with you all at REA, come back and tell the board, not the same resolution that was given two weeks ago," said Board Member Mariah White. 

The Board was also briefed on the third-party investigation into the June 6 shooting outside Huguenot High School's graduation at the Altria Theater during a closed session meeting. 

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