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School Building Crumbles While Standoff Continues

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Looking through the foggy glass in the main door, a disused section of Carver Elementary School appears about the same as it did six months ago — disgusting and dilapidated. The only thing that's changed is that school officials aren't allowed in.

The former Moore Street School is caught in a deed dispute between the Richmond School Board and Mayor Dwight Jones' administration. And with a new year beginning at Carver, city officials have barred even the school custodian from entering the building that's still attached but has been sitting empty since 1999.

Second District School Board member Kim Gray walked around the building's perimeter Friday, watching students play next to broken glass that had fallen from its shattered windows. (A custodian was later called to clean up the glass.)

The city's move to keep everyone out isn't exactly helping matters, Gray says: "They haven't done anything except keep us from being able to get in."

Gray has long called for Jones' administration to develop a plan for the vacant building, and took Style Weekly on a tour in March to show such conditions as animal corpses rotting inside it. She says city officials confiscated the school's keys to the building shortly afterward, and rewired its alarm system to run directly to city offices.

"They made a promise and a commitment to pay for the procurement of a plan on the Moore Street School," Gray says. "The responsibilities are clear. Obviously they're saying it's their building if we can't even get the keys."

But a spokeswoman for the mayor says the fault lies with the School Board. Tammy Hawley says the building is in limbo because the board hasn't developed a plan for separating the parcels of Carver and Moore Street.

"As a condemned vacant structure, any interior violations may remain," Hawley says in an email. "Reports of rodent infestation were investigated by Code Enforcement staff, and at that time there was no evidence of a problem."

Despite the standoff, students at Carver saw some academic success last year, posting the highest reading Standards of Learning pass rate in the district at 84 percent.

Gray says she's pleased, but adds: "I would venture to say they'd be doing much better if we put them in an adequate facility."

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