In its school rezoning and closure process from May 6 - June 3, 2013, the Richmond School Board voted to close 3 schools and change 14 elementary school zones despite opposition that overwhelmingly outweighed support at both public hearings. Though there were a wide range of concerns cited, including the rushed timeline, lack of transparency and absence of clear criteria for closing and rezoning these schools, many stakeholders expressed particular disapproval related to the potential increase in racial isolation that would result from the plan, formally known as Option C.

While regional efforts to promote school diversity—a central theme of the "Looking Back, Moving Forward" conference—remain critical, the school board actions present a specific challenge which could be addressed within a single school system through innovative policies with a record of success in other locales. To that end, this memo has three broad purposes.

  • We identify key demographic changes that present opportunities and challenges for promoting school diversity in Richmond Public Schools (RPS). We also provide a synthesis of more than six decades of social science research showing that integration is still a deeply worthy policy goal.
  • We outline the racial impact of current student assignment policies, in addition to the projected impact of the June 2013 rezoning.
  • And perhaps most importantly, we close with a vision for moving forward in a way that more comprehensively fosters the many benefits of school diversity in Richmond City.

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Copyright © 2013 Organizers and Strategic Action Committee of the “Looking Back, Moving Forward” Conference on School Diversity and Equity. This report first appeared on September 10, 2013.

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