Richmond council approves $1.5M to save schools

September 7, 2010 11:52:01 PM PDT
The Richmond City Council chambers were packed on Tuesday night with worried parents. The Council was asked for the second time to donate $1.5 million to help keep Richmond schools open. By the end of the night, the council voted unanimously to give them the money.

Olinda and Grant elementary schools were on the chopping block, but it was the potential closing of Kennedy High that attracted the most concern.

School officials and parents argued that Kennedy is a small learning community, test scores are up, but what was at stake is more than the loss of a school.

"The dynamics are very explosive," said West Contra Costa Unified School District President Madeline Kronenberg.

Kronenberg said merging Kennedy High with students from different parts of town could spark more gang violence. Rivalries between the city's north, central, and south sides have been deadly.

"We've had kids gunned down at bus stops just two weeks ago down on Second Street and McDonald. Around the corner here at East Shore Park we saw a kid get killed who was going to school," said school board member Charles Ramsey.

Ramsey said the majority of Kennedy's approximately 1,000 students would likely merge with Richmond High if it had to close.

"I went there for a week, it was bad. It was like people were messing around in class, not learning," said Kennedy student Devonnie Davidson.

West Contra Costa County schools lost $39 million in state money this year.

The city of Richmond recently settled a lawsuit over utility taxes with Chevron for $114 million. Some felt that money could be used to save schools, but at least one council member, Nat Bates, said the school district has been fiscally irresponsible and he feels like the buck needs to stop there.

"They're going to have to get their act together. We can no longer as the city of Richmond be the ATM every time they have problem and they threaten us with an attempt to close schools," says Bates.

Bates had been the only opposition, but before the vote he told ABC7 he changed his mind because he didn't want those students to suffer.

Richmond will spend the $1.5 million to keep all three schools open for another year.


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