Preliminary Fox Elementary rebuild cost estimate falls short; insurer says school system can request more

Posted at 2:40 PM, Sep 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-26 14:46:33-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- VACORP, the insurance company that covers Richmond Public Schools (RPS) buildings, said they sent a preliminary estimate of what they thought the reconstruction of Fox Elementary School should cost using materials of similar type and quality, which RPS sources said Friday is lower than what RPS estimates the rebuild to cost.

The VACORP representative said RPS can accept their estimates or they can send documentation to support a higher reimbursement.

He said they have not received any information from RPS requesting a higher reimbursement yet.

The rep added that VACORP will pay to put the building back and any code updates.

On Friday, multiple sources told CBS 6 that VACORP told the district it would not cover the full cost to rebuild Fox, and there would be a $10 million shortfall.

Fox Fire Investigation

In July 2022, the Richmond Fire Department (RFD) said the February 2022 fire at Fox was accidental and the cause was undetermined.

The fire department explained that there was no evidence to support any deliberate or criminal act.

Richmond Fire took control of the site after the building caught fire on February 11. Since then, fire and insurance investigators have spent months collecting physical evidence to determine the cause of the fire.

The fire department returned control of the building to RPS in July.

Richmond Fire blames COVID

The Richmond Fire Marshal's inspection of Fox Elementary School in August 2021 found eight violations.

One of those violations indicated the school's fire alarm panel was in trouble mode.

The violations were supposed to be corrected by the end of September 2021, but the date of correction was left blank for every single one.

Richmond Public Schools claimed it did not receive this Notice of Violation until after the February 2022 fire burned the school to the ground.

Previous CBS 6 Problem Solvers reporting revealed firefighters found the alarm panel in trouble condition when they first arrived at Fox that February night.

The firefighters thought something was wrong with the detector on their initial visit. They then returned 26 minutes later to a burning school.

The Fire Chief and Fire Marshal both declined interviews with the CBS 6 Problem Solvers, but a spokesperson said the Fire Prevention Office wasn't able to verify violations were corrected because of staffing and scheduling issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email to send a tip.