Schools plan community meeting

Published 9:28 pm Monday, December 7, 2009

School officials and board members hope to gather public comment on site selection for an elementary school to replace two aging ones in a meeting on Thursday.

The meeting, at which members of the public can give their opinion on the replacement for Robertson and Southwestern elementary schools, is scheduled for 4 p.m. Dec. 10 in City Council chambers, 441 Market St.

Robertson and Southwestern, two of the oldest schools in the district, are located in the Whaleyville and Holland areas. The School Board voted earlier this year to combine them into one school, which has been named the district’s No. 1 capital improvement priority. The two schools had a total of 544 students in mid-October.

“I think we need to look geographically at the whole southern part of Suffolk, and think about our population and geography,” said School Board member Phyllis Byrum, who represents the area that includes Robertson Elementary School. “I’m very concerned about transportation issues and zoning of this new school.”

Byrum said, however, that she is sure the board will find a good plan.

“We will be able to come up with a plan that will make it equitable for all of our students,” Byrum said. “I’m ready for us to move forward with this school because it’s much needed in this area.”

The school will be one of the first elementary sites to go through the independent site selection process, school district spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw said. Other recently constructed elementary sites, such as Hillpoint, Creekside and Northern Shores, were proffered by developers, Bradshaw said.

In the city’s comprehensive plan, broad community input is strongly encouraged in the case of new construction, Bradshaw said. Therefore, the board is seeking community input on such factors as location, traffic, length of bus rides, joint use options, design, water and sewage or any other topic relating to the site, Bradshaw said.

One hour after the 4 p.m. meeting, the board will hold another input meeting on the division’s 2010-2011 operating budget. Residents are encouraged to express their concerns about the budget at 5 p.m.

Potential speakers do not have to register for either meeting, but should be present promptly at the scheduled time. For more information, call 925-6752.