RICHMOND, Va. -- Families and staff in the William Fox Elementary School community are preparing to move into a new space for learning after Fox was destroyed by a fire more than three weeks ago.
The plan presented by Richmond Public Schools' Superintendent was given the green lightduring a school board meeting Monday night after several parents publicly spoke in support of ending virtual school as quickly as possible.
“We’ve had three weeks of uncertainty, and tensions are high," said one Fox parent.
“These kids need to be back in a physical meeting space as soon as possible," said another parent.
“My daughter and I were talking about identity, and she told me just wanted to get her identity back of being a normal kid," another parent said.
A majority of parents spoke in support of moving forward with Kamras' recommendation to shift Fox students and staff from online classes to in-person instruction at First Baptist Church beginning March 21.
“I’m thrilled to be able to move forward," Kamras said.
First Baptist is a stopgap location as RPS works to renovate the next temporary space for Fox, Clark Springs Elementary.
“Really, the work to begin to get everything lined up started the day after the fire," Kamras said. "Talking to contractors, beginning to get quotes and things of that nature."
The building has remained vacant after it was shuttered in 2013, so Kamras said it's need of repairs that could cost up to $500,000 which the school board has approved to be spent.
“The roof needs to be patched in some places. There are some plumbing and electrical upgrades that need to happen," Kamras said. "Some floor tiles, ceiling tiles, of course, painting, door replacement.”
Kamras aims to have those projects completed by April 19, but he said supply chain issues and rising gas prices are making the timeline more difficult.
While he said he doesn't want to make any promises, he remains cautiously optimistic that the deadline will be met.
Meanwhile, School Board Member Mariah White, who represents Fox's district, said she's heard from parents concerned that it appears renovations to Clark Springs are moving slowly.
During Monday's school board meeting, Fox PTA President, Katie Ricard, said she worries that a 'lack of progress' may be damaging enrollment because families don't know what to expect in the weeks and months to come.
“I had been over there last Thursday, and I didn’t see anything happening," White said. “I have to agree with the parents because the fire was three weeks [ago].”
However, with a stopgap measure now identified, White expects the process will pick up speed.
“It'll move a lot quicker," White said. "Now we can concentrate on completing the task of renovating Clark Springs, so now I think that that will take precedence."
Kamras explained most of the work on renovating Clark Springs so far has happened behind the scenes, but rest assured, he said RPS is making progress.
“It’s not all visible,” he said. “You don't see people walking on the roof just yet, but you will very soon.”
White said once Fox students move into Clark Springs, it'll be cause for celebration.
"On the first day, we're going to be dancing in the school," White said. "We are resilient, and we will bounce back."
RPS will check back in with Fox families in April to see if they'd prefer to stay at First Baptist through the end of the semester or switch to Clark Springs.