Hundreds of students, teachers and others gathered in front of City Hall Monday afternoon ahead of a city council meeting to protest a budget proposed by the city government that would leave Richmond Public Schools with an $18 million shortfall from what its leaders proposed.

The impact of a potential shortfall became reality last week when Richmond Public Schools administrators recommended closing five schools in an effort to cut costs for a district where fewer than half of its schools were recognized as fully accredited this year.

At 2 p.m. Monday, hundreds of students at various schools around the city skipped their final classes of the day and marched downtown where they merged and circled city hall, demanding more money for their schools. The protest faced a slight lull, but regained energy as more students, teachers and community members arrived for a planned demonstration at 5 p.m.

Naomi Thompson, a sophomore at Open High School who helped lead the march and protest, said many changes were needed in Richmond Public Schools.

“You’re not going to be able to succeed and go to a higher standard of learning if there’s not enough funding,” Thompson said. “And there’s just not enough funding.”

Bridgette Newberry, a teacher at Open High School who joined the protest after school let out, said she thought students attending the protest could make a much-needed difference.

“It makes a statement that they are concerned enough to not go to their last class,” Newberry said.

The official rally at 5 p.m. included students, some as young as elementary students, teachers and community leaders sharing thoughts on why schools needed more money.

As chants and supportive car horns echoed throughout the streets Monday afternoon, council members several floors above spent their afternoons in a budget work session meeting ahead of a city council meeting where the main topic would likely be the schools’ shortfall.

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