The Fox community disappointed by the return online

Following a fire over the weekend, students and parents at Fox Elementary School thought they were just going to collect supplies for the return to virtual learning. Instead, as soon as they walked through the door of an event aimed at equipping them for online classes, students and families were greeted with cheers from teachers and staff gathered just inside the threshold.

Children who seemed worried about their new surroundings lit up when they saw a familiar face, and little ones hiding behind their parents’ legs rushed at the sight of their favorite teachers.

At the event on Tuesday, students and families gathered in the closed Clark Springs Elementary gymnasium, where volunteers were ready to hand out school supplies like textbooks, markers, Wi-Fi hotspots, and more. -Fi and headphones. Students and families could also pick up a week’s worth of food at the event in addition to a Valentine’s Day for all the kids.

Despite the drama a few days earlier, everyone is smiling.

Like everyone who has walked through those doors, Fox Elementary School vice-principal LaTonya Oliver was struck by the outpouring of support. She says she arrived that morning hoping to set up the supply drive herself, only to find the entire space decorated and prepared by volunteers.

Boxes of school supplies for Fox Elementary School families to prepare for virtual learning. (Photo: Meg Schiffres/VPM News)

“They were ready to serve us…So we had the opportunity to greet our parents at the door and provide all of our students with the love and resources we have today,” Oliver said. “We felt loved and supported. Family, students, staff, we all felt loved coming to Clark Springs today.

Mohammad Momin and his 9-year-old son Faaiz, who is in fourth grade at Fox, are one of the parents who pick up school supplies. He says the night of the fire was unsettling for the whole family.

“We are very disappointed. That night I couldn’t sleep,” Momin said. “The most important thing was that his friends missed him in person. So when he started in person, he was very happy. But that’s how it is. In this situation, we can’t do anything.

Fiaaz agrees that he will miss seeing his friends the most.

“Virtual is a bit boring because you have to sit in front of the computer every day,” Fiaaz said. “And in person is great because you can meet your friends and play outside.”

The next day, another elementary school in the district held a giant play date for all the kids at Fox Elementary. Sponsored by the John B. Cary PTA, the event was a big party for students with face painting booths, a mini petting zoo and craft tables. The students again smiled from ear to ear and the parents said they were touched by this second outpouring of support from the community.

“The community loves Fox,” said Fox Elementary parent John Ware. “So even when we knew it was going to be a terrible ordeal, we knew everyone around us was going to help pull themselves together.”

Ware said he was relieved that the school already has virtual learning opportunities to ensure a smooth online transition. Playdate day was the first that Fox Elementary students returned to virtual learning, and he said his children weren’t phased.

“They are pros at this point. So it’s not one of their favorite activities, but it’s great that they can just come back to it and it’s not an extremely confusing and overwhelming thing like it was a year and a half ago, ” Ware said.

Derek Harwell is also a Fox Elementary parent. He says while he understands the need to resume online classes, he hopes they will return to in-person learning as soon as possible.

“It’s not optimal. I mean, we were excited to get back to in-person learning at the start of the year, like most people were looking forward to,” Harwell said. “I understand the need while they try to find a suitable place for the children to come back. I’m glad they didn’t scatter the winds.

For the first time since the fire, members of the Richmond School Board met on Wednesday to discuss the repercussions of the incident. Superintendent Jason Kamras updated the council on the state of the damage and said he was working quickly to find a space where students and teachers could congregate. He says several community organizations have offered their spaces, but the most promising may be a property the council already owns.

sign with who reads "We love our Fox ES family"
A sign outside the Clark Spring Elementary School supply pickup. (Photo: Meg Schiffres/VPM News)

“We have received a number of offers from churches, synagogues and corporate spaces. And we’re going to assess whether any of them make sense, short-term or long-term as well,” Kamras said. “We are in the process of identifying a place where the Fox family can move. The main contender at this point is Clark Springs Elementary… And while that would definitely require some work, we believe the job can be done in a reasonable amount of time.

Clark Springs Elementary School was closed by the Richmond School Board in 2014. Mariah White, who represents Fox Elementary School students on the board, says she is concerned the condition of the building is not still suitable for children.

“I walked through it yesterday and have some concerns about the way it looks. It needs a roof. And I won’t allow my children to go in there, any of the students, unless the roof is over there These things need to be taken care of before entering,” White said.

According to Kamras, Fox was insured for $14 million for the installation itself. School contents were insured for an additional $4 million. The superintendent says their policy also covers the cost of some structural work that may be needed at Clark Springs.

According to the Virginia Department of Education, last year the cost of building a new elementary school in Virginia ranged from approximately $25 million to $37 million. Although the insurance money the council expects to receive won’t come close to covering that amount, White says she’s confident the community will find a way.

“We have a community. And I’m sure the community will reach out,” White said.

Fox Elementary teachers have compiled Amazon wishlists to help their students transition online. To support the school district, you can also donate to the Richmond Public Schools Education Foundation.

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