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Holland, Whaleyville need two schools

As I follow the educational concerns of our city and its challenges, I become more committed to the well being of my city, especially after attending the Town Hall meeting in Holland last week.

I graduated from Southwestern High School in 1967 and presently serve as president of the Nansemond Training/Southwestern High School Alumni Association. We have committed our organization to contribute annually to the students at Southwestern and Robertson Elementary schools through monetary grants and volunteer services.

Since 1991, when the Suffolk School Board decided to “consolidate” Southwestern and Robertson, our organization has campaigned bitterly against this concept. We firmly believe that one elementary school should be located in both the Holland and the Whaleyville communities.

I personally remain committed to the two-school concept for the following reasons:

The Whaleyville and Holy Neck Boroughs represent approximately more land than the other five boroughs, combined. The City praises the diversity but shows mercy to the agricultural side. One can’t have it both ways.

The City Council advocates the village concept. What could promote any village or town more pleasantly than a school within its boundaries? Holland and Whaleyville citizens deserve educational facilities. These two communities made the present City of Suffolk possible.

Regardless where one elementary school is located within these two boroughs, extensive travel will take place. I am surprised our School Board committed to this plan, since education is its top priority. The plan is totally unfair to 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds.

Since stimulus money is being sought to build a replacement school somewhere in the Holland community, “Why can’t a Whaleyville school become a reality by City Council floating a small bond to renovate Robertson Elementary?” I can’t believe that our School Board and City Council members would not seek this opportunity.

This approach would be a win-win, first and foremost for the children. Second, it would be a win-win for the village concept and for citizens. Finally, it would be a win-win for the city of Suffolk. Schools are the core of a community. Growth takes place around schools, and commercial development originates there. These things bring tax dollars to our city.

Now is the time for a breath of fresh air in these communities.

I ask our School Board and City Council to not allow this opportunity to pass us by. With the possibility that the Robertson Elementary students will be assigned to other schools for the coming year, let’s think of another course of action.

Why not think in terms of renovating this facility to accommodate 300-350 students? The city provided this course of action for Oakland and Booker T. Washington Elementary schools.

Why not the same for the Whaleyville community? This approach would stabilize the two communities for 20-25 years.

I understand the argument against a small school. But this argument does not have merit in this case, because of Whaleyville’s geographic location. This city certainly can afford one 300-pupil school.

I ask the Whaleyville community to speak out for a just cause — your children.

HAROLD FAULK is a member of the Suffolk Economic Development Authority. Email him at hfaulk@verizon.net.