The Richmond School Board has approved a pupil assignment plan designed to end cross-town busing for racial purposes and return public schools here to a neighborhood system.

The plan, approved Tuesday night on a 6-to-1 vote, comes a month after a federal appeals court approved the dismantling of a cross-town busing program in Norfolk public schools.

Unlike the Norfolk plan, the Richmond proposal would not substantially alter the racial makeup of any school in the system, which is more than 85 percent black. Fifteen Richmond schools would increase their percentages of black students, 15 would decrease them and 9 would remain the same.

George Martin, the board's attorney said he will act quickly to get the proposal approved by a federal judge. Richmond has been under a desegregation order since 1971 and any changes in pupil transportation must be approved by the court.

The only dissenting vote on the board was cast by John L. Howlette, who said the plan needed more study. Throughout the year-long process of studying changes in the plan, Howlette maintained that the school administration had not demonstrated that changing the system would result in educational benefits.

Unlike the Norfolk case, the Richmond School Board's decision to end cross-town busing has created little controversy.

"The Richmond situation is totally different," said Chan Kendrick of the Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. "There is no opposition from the traditional people opposing changes like this."