What will happen to Robertson and Southwestern?

Published 10:57 pm Saturday, July 11, 2009

Suffolk High School became the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts.

East Suffolk High School became the East Suffolk Recreation Center.

With the Suffolk Public School Board’s ruling Thursday that Robertson and Southwestern Elementary schools will be consolidated into one school, those two schools will be left vacant.

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Given the city’s history of turning evacuated schools into new city gems, are there any plans in the works for the two rural elementary schools?

For right now the answer is no.

“We’re not going to do anything right away,” said Bethanne Bradshaw, public information officer for Suffolk Public Schools. “We usually keep them for a while in case we need them to put other programs there. (A school) could be used for a satellite program for us.”

Bradshaw pointed out that several schools have been brought back for other uses for the school system.

For example, the former East Suffolk Elementary School is now a maintenance building for the school system. Additionally, Florence Bowser Elementary School was closed and reopened again based on the need of the city.

“There’s all sorts of possibilities that will be debated among the board and city council,” Bradshaw said. “But (the schools) will be used because they’re not horrible buildings. It’s really something that’s up in the air. We will decide later, along the way.”

School Board Chairman Lorraine Skeeter said the board has no plan for the schools, but she is looking forward to hearing the possibilities for the buildings.

“We don’t have something in mind that we plan to use them for, right here and now,” Skeeter said. “We will all put our heads together as citizens and come up with options to use them in some way – if that is the community’s desire.”

While Skeeter said the board has not made a specific recommendation or decision, she said she was personally inspired after hearing from the community’s residents.

“Having heard from members of the community speak, I would like to see if there is any way possible they can be preserved for a historical landmark and used by the community,” Skeeter said.

The school board will continue discussions on the location of the new school in the coming months, and Skeeter said the board is hoping to get the new school built as soon as possible.

“We want to get this school up and running soon,” Skeeter said. “Hopefully quicker than we have done any other school before.”