$10 million shortfall: Insurance tells RPS it won’t fully cover Fox Elementary rebuild

RICHMOND, Va. — VACORP, the insurance company that covers Richmond Public Schools (RPS) buildings, told RPS it will not cover the full cost to rebuild William Fox Elementary School, according to sources.

The shortfall is approximately $10 million, sources told CBS 6 Problem Solver Melissa Hipolit.

RPS does plan to challenge the number, those sources also indicated.

“Should the insurance payout come up short it is incumbent on the School Board to meet 100 percent of the Fox community’s expectations relevant to a new building,” Richmond School Board member Jonathan Young said in a statement. “That said, we would surely need to adopt value engineering cost savings approaches not unlike what we had to do relevant to our last three buildings when literally overnight the costs ballooned by more than $30 million.”

The CBS 6 Problem Solvers have reached out to RPS for a statement on the situation.

The spokesperson for the school system said RPS is continuing to work with the insurance company to “secure the best possible outcome.”

In February, Richmond Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras said Fox was insured for up to $13 million and the contents inside were insured for $4 million.

But Young subsequently told the CBS 6 Problem Solver that VACORP would provide enough money to potentially fund a full replacement of Fox, stating RPS would receive millions more than initially anticipated based on the terms of the contract with the insurance company.

Kamras later confirmed Young’s statement and added that it was “excellent news” during a previous community meeting with Fox parents.

Through a public records request, CBS6 Problem Solver Melissa Hipolit received RPS’s contract with VACORP and the “statement of values” for each piece of property covered by the insurance.

The statement of values ​​showed the Fox building and its contents valued at more than $14 million.

But, when Hipolit asked an RPS spokesperson about that, they told her the insurance was for replacement cost, so it did not matter what the property was insured for, it just mattered what it will cost to rebuild it.

Fox Fire Investigation

In July 2022, the Richmond Fire Department (RFD) said the February 2022 fire at Fox was accidental and the cause was undetermined.

The fire department explained that there was no evidence to support any deliberate or criminal act.

Richmond Fire took control of the site after the building caught fire on February 11. Since then, fire and insurance investigators have spent months collecting physical evidence to determine the cause of the fire.

The fire department returned control of the building to RPS in July.

Richmond Fire blames COVID

The Richmond Fire Marshal’s inspection of Fox Elementary School in August 2021 found eight violations.

One of those violations indicated the school’s fire alarm panel was in trouble mode.

The violations were supposed to be corrected by the end of September 2021, but the date of correction was left blank for every single one.

Richmond Public Schools claimed it did not receive this Notice of Violation until after the February 2022 fire burned the school to the ground.

Previous CBS 6 Problem Solvers reporting revealed firefighters found the alarm panel in trouble condition when they first arrived at Fox that February night.

The firefighters thought something was wrong with the detector on their initial visit. They then returned 26 minutes later to a burning school.

The Fire Chief and Fire Marshal both declined interviews with the CBS 6 Problem Solvers, but a spokesperson said the Fire Prevention Office wasn’t able to verify violations were corrected because of staffing and scheduling issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

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