From Parents For Life 2012- RPS Lies about Norrell Dangers On Website

Posted: September 12, 2012 in Uncategorized
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Some amazing activists with the group Parents For Life 2012 have exposed some glaring lies by the Richmond Public Schools about A.V. Norrell. Thanks to Parents For Life 2012 for shedding light on the issues, and keeping the pressure on!

From Parents For Life 2012:

Richmond Public School recently put out an FAQ section on their website, in relation to the relocation of the Head Start program to A.V Norrell Elementary. In this FAQ, they lie about the contents of a 2007 FEMA report (available by email, mcnealkc [at] if you want us to email you the file), and about the capacity of John B. Cary Elementary. The complete refutation is attached as a .doc file.

In brief, RPS claimed that the 2007 report declared Norrell safe and the landfill no longer a problem, while in reality, FEMA detected levels of methane gas “approaching the upper explosive limit”, and unequivocally stated that the landfill is still a safety risk at the time of writing. Richmond Public Schools also alleges that no other school could accommodate 250 students, while a news report from May of this year represents John B. Cary elementary (which the FAQ mentions by name) as operating 700 students under capacity.

These discrepancies, calculated as they appear, can’t be accidental. RPS is lying about A.V Norrell Elementary.

The FAQ recently released by Richmond Public Schools, regarding the relocation of 250 preschool students from Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School to A.V Norrell Elementary School, blatantly lies about the content of a 2007 FEMA report, and the availability of alternative locations.

In arguing the safety of A.V Norrell, which was built on an improperly capped landfill, the FAQ cites a Federal Emergency Management Agency report released in 2007, regarding conditions on the site in 2006 after a sewage pipeline burst. The Richmond Public Schools FAQ states:

“… a FEMA report dated March 2007 referred to additional testing by Richmond City’s consultants, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Department that deemed the landfill and school safe. The results of the investigation revealed that “the landfill did not pose health, safety and environmental threats…””

While the phrase “the landfill did not pose health, safety, and environmental threats” is an actual quote from the report, it refers to an investigation performed in 1993, which is cited in the report to give context to the 2006 findings, which state:

“Based on the results of the borings performed in the area of the proposed work, it appears the
presence of landfill gas is at levels approaching the lower explosive limit (LEL), which is 5
percent methane by volume, and was as high as 24 percent methane by volume—nearing the
upper explosive limit (UEL). Although there has been a gas extraction and collection system in
place since 1977, it is unclear if that system is still operational today.”

What’s more, the report explicitly states that “landfill gas is still an issue of concern for the Fells Street Landfill.”

Essentially, the School Board pulled a quote referring to a 1993 investigation, and claimed that it instead referred to a 2006 investigation. This can’t be a mistake, because while the 1993 investigation concluded that the grounds were safe, as quoted by RPS, the 2006 testings- the ones the report was compiled to discuss- revealed methane gas in concentrations as high as the “upper explosive limit”. RPS thus used twenty-one year old results to obscure tests performed only six years ago.

In addition, the FAQ ridiculously claims that John B. Cary Elementary “would not be able to comfortably accommodate the 250 to 260 students.” However, a report from May of this year quotes Cary as serving 300 enrolled students in a building built for 1,000. This detail, too, seems to be a lie, if conditions have not rapidly changed in the past four months.

Whether or not A.V Norrell Elementary is safe remains to be seen, but the 2006 FEMA report makes clear the conditions in 2006, and those conditions were dangerous. It should raise serious suspicions that the School Board has resorted to lying to the community about the safety of preschoolers and the availability of alternatives, especially compounded with the fact that, while ostensibly released, the current tests results are nowhere to be found on the RPS website.


“MLK Preschool Relocation FAQ”. Richmond Public Schools.

Reid, Zachary. “Richmond Debates Merits of Smaller Elementary Schools.” May 2012. Richmond Times-Dispatch.

“FEMA Battery Park Report”. Federal Emercency Management Agency. 2007. (available by email, mcnealkc [at] if you want us to email you the file)

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