It’s time to choose

Published 10:23 pm Thursday, June 18, 2009

It’s amazing how little can get done at a meeting.

Suffolk’s School Board held a daylong meeting on Thursday and accomplished little of significance. Granted, the meeting was the board’s annual retreat, which usually serves as a time for elected officials to roll up their sleeves and tackle tough topics that are too complex — or too controversial — to digest in the course of a normal monthly night meeting. To that end, there really were no strong expectations for Thursday’s School Board meeting — at least not in the realm of actual policymaking.

Still, some Suffolk citizens had hoped for a resolution to the long-simmering issue of elementary schools to serve the Holland and Whaleyville communities. The School Board and City Council have batted the issue back and forth for months, now, and students, parents, administrators and faculty members — not to mention the average taxpaying resident — are no closer today to knowing the city’s solution to the problem of two aging and inadequate schools in widely separate areas than they were when the discussion first began.

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Some School Board members side with the parents, who say that a consolidated, centrally located school would subject young children to long bus rides before and after classes. That group calls for separate facilities. Others, including the City Council have suggested a larger school be built somewhere between the two rural areas, which would have the benefit of being a cheaper solution than constructing two separate buildings. In fact, the council has put strings on a proposed capital improvements plan allocation intended to help launch the construction process, requiring that the money be spent for a single, consolidated school.

It was against this backdrop that the School Board met on Thursday to discuss the matter. A group of concerned citizens also attended the meeting, hoping for a decision in their favor. What they got, instead, was another postponement, this time so that board members can take a bus tour of the county’s elementary schools at the end of the month.

While it’s hard to argue with the idea of giving board members enough data to make an informed decision, it’s also a little hard to believe that those members haven’t taken the initiative to explore the area around the schools in question on their own during the interminable months that have dragged on since the need for replacements was identified.

Even in a bureaucracy, there comes a time for a decision — right, wrong or indifferent. That time — if not already past — is rapidly approaching.