Richmond Community High School (RCHS) was initiated in 1977 by the late Andrew J. Asch, Jr., who envisioned a public-private partnership that would provide outstanding education for gifted students whose socioeconomic circumstances limited their ability to succeed. Mr. Asch provided leadership as well as giving and garnering financial support to begin the school.
RCHS was created from a principles set out by respected educator Dr. Margaret Dabney in the “Dabney Document.” Forward thinking in its approach, the Dabney Document outlined principles that hearken back to sound ideas of John Dewey, who believed that good teachers do not merely “teach” as much as they help students learn and build on their experiences. Helping students to gain experience and to build on these experiences is a key component of the RCHS mandate. This document still guides the functioning of the school today.
The school’s early days were full of excitement and hope, although the challenges at times seemed daunting. Initial leaders included the school’s first lead teacher, Barbara-lyn Morris, and Richard Hunter, Superintendent of Richmond Public Schools. Some of the challenges included devising a strong curriculum and environment that would guide these special students into a new vision for their futures. Many entrenched practices – ranking students by grade, class, and grade-point average for example – were not seen as priorities of the program. Family units replaced homerooms. Parents became an integral part of the educational experience.
The school first opened in the Mosque, now Richmond’s Landmark Theatre. It later moved to the Carver Elementary School and still later to the Maggie Walker school building. For several years, RCHS was located at the former Westhampton Elementary School at Libbie and Patterson Avenues. Its most recent move has been to the historic Chandler Middle School building at 201 East Brookland Park Boulevard on the city’s north side. The first class graduated in 1981 and, until 1986, the program admitted a class every other year. Since 1986, however, an entering class of approximately 60-75 students has been admitted every year.