RICHMOND, Va. — Back and forth continues between the Richmond School Board and the Richmond Board over what the correct population projection will be for the south side of Richmond.
This is a situation that is contributing to delaying the release of funds to rebuild George Wythe Secondary School.
Cracks and collapsing facilities are why Richmond’s George Wythe High School is considered a priority for all city and school board leaders. However, it is the prediction of the number of students who will occupy these seats that blocks the process. The members of the municipal council and the school board do not agree on this figure. The majority of the school board voted in favor of a capacity of 1,600 places.
While many city members are in favor of a 2,000 seat capacity.
Those in favor of the 2,000 number rely on the following projections of numbers that show continued growth in Richmond.
A Cooper Center projection that analyzed the 2010 census said it predicts the Richmond area will continue to grow. A US community survey that surveys annually finds a similar trajectory of increased growth.
“The city of Richmond has grown in population and that’s a trend we’ve seen that’s different than in the past,” said Tom Shields, associate dean for academic and student affairs at the University of Richmond.
Those arguing for the 2,000-person capacity also cite a study by the Cropper firm that was commissioned by the district in 2019.
This study predicted that George Wythe would have 1,741 students in the fall of 2026. The school is also expected to have 110% of the current capacity of 1,401 for the 2021–22 school year. That’s 1,541 students.
In fact, officials say George Wythe’s current enrollment count is close to 1,300, a difference of nearly 200 people from what the company had forecast for the year.
School board members like Jonathan Young, who supports building 1,600 students, say they want to use the actual data on a projection that’s already turned off. He also wants the approximately 2,500 vacant seats in the city’s high schools to be used before they spend more money creating more space.
At this time, it is unclear when a decision will be made on capacity. The school board is due to meet again in April