School Board adopts improvements plan; now goes to city

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Suffolk School Board formally adopted, and will now be sending to City Council, a 10-year Capital Improvements Plan, which is worth an estimated $356 million and encompasses major construction, renovation and maintenance projects through the 2015-16 school year.

The plan includes, as it stands now, a decision to build one 675-seat school as a replacement for Robertson and Southwestern elementary schools. A major caveat goes along with Thursday night’s decision though.

&uot;I informed the council,&uot; Chairman Lorraine B. Skeeter said about September’s City Council retreat, &uot;that if they wanted to pursue building two schools, we would be happy to go forward with that. If they fund properly for it, we would happily want to build two schools.&uot;

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Superintendent Dr. Milton R. Liverman affirmed to the Board that even with the forwarding of this plan on to Council, if that group decides two smaller elementary schools are preferable, and agrees to the extra (estimated) $10.9 million the two-school option would need, the Board could in the future still approve the two-school option.

The two-school option in South Suffolk would mean the construction of a 200-pupil facility in Whaleyville to replace Robertson Elementary; and a 400-seat facility in Holland to replace Southwestern Elementary.

The two schools would be neighborhood, or &uot;walk-to&uot; facilities, while the single-school concept, if decided upon, would be constructed in a location central to the two villages.

A 200-seat school would be the smallest public elementary school built in Virginia in the last seven years, Liverman said.

If the one-school option is finally given the go-ahead, Board member William Whitley said he would be concerned about the long distance many students would have to be bused to and from school each day. Despite Whitley’s, and others’ concerns about the one-school option, the need to build new facilities is a unanimous sentiment of the School Board members, regardless of which option is ultimately chosen.

&uot;I read somewhere in some paper that it was recommended that those two buildings be renovated,&uot; Whitley said, &uot;but you need to understand, those two schools are so rundown and so dilapidated.&uot;

Whitley continued, saying the time needed to shut down those schools during renovation, along with the age of Robertson and Southwestern already, would make renovations a poor idea.

Board member Fran Alwood said, &uot;The rest of the city is moving forward and that part of the city deserves new schools too.&uot;

According to Board member William Hill, &uot;We need to have some major dialogue (with City Council) so we can tie in our plans with their plans … so we know philosophically, their plans when they talk about neighborhood or &uot;walk-to&uot; schools.&uot;

The date for a joint meeting of the two bodies is still to be determined.

The CIP includes in FY 2006-07 the final year of payment on the Creekside Elementary School construction and $22.3 million for a new elementary school to serve the Route 10 corridor.