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Student School Protest Moves Online

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Disappointed by the mayor's response to their concerns, student organizers behind last week's Richmond Public Schools walkout are moving their protest online.

About 200 students from Open High School and other city schools walked out April 28 to draw attention to the lack of funding for the school district's many pressing maintenance needs. Mayor Dwight Jones invited them into City Council chambers for a discussion.

But students say the discussion led to more buck passing. The mayor suggested that students take their complaints to the School Board, which receives its funding from the city.

Another walkout is possible, Open High School senior Levi Bane says. But for now he and fellow senior Isabella Arias are running two Facebook pages to keep the protest going online. One, dubbed Presence RPS, will serve as a place for students to document conditions at schools. The other will collect news about the district.

A couple of days after the walkout, City Council voted 5-4 to reallocate $12.6 million of the $13.6 million slated for the mayor's Shockoe Bottom redevelopment plan. Of that reallocated money, $3.25 million will go toward schools.

But Jones has said he will veto the changes, a move Arias says proves her point: "It just shows that he cares more about commercial development than school development."

Several School Board members expressed their support for the students' efforts. Kim Gray appeared on WRIR 97.3-FM's "Open Source" with Arias and Open High senior Stuart Shepard, while board members Glen Sturtevant and Kristen Larson offered support throughout the walkout on Twitter.

Watching the students from the back of City Council chambers last week, School Board member Jeff Bourne said he was impressed by the sophistication of their protest.

"For all the negativity RPS receives," he said, "we clearly have some very bright students."

On the Web

After publishing photos of Richmond Public Schools building conditions, Style Weekly seeks pictures taken by students and faculty members documenting the conditions inside their school buildings. Email to letters@styleweekly, or use the hashtag #MyRPS to share them on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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