Left hand, right hand should communicate

Published 9:29 pm Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Last summer, the Suffolk School Board made the tough decision to close Robertson and Southwestern Elementary schools, consolidating the school populations into one new school. It was a long process that went on arguably too long and finally — unlike other governmental spending decisions — made sense.

This week, though, that plan came to a screeching halt, when city officials proved there are truly times when the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.

Tuesday evening, the Suffolk Planning Commission voted unanimously to turn down the proposed school location, saying the site did not fit within the city’s well-defined comprehensive plan.

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The purpose of the comprehensive plan is to plan where future growth will happen and to detail locations where various types of projects should be built. Unfortunately, it appears school officials failed to look at the plan before moving forward and selecting a site.

With that said, the plan should be altered to allow school officials to select the site they want and to allow this school’s construction to begin as soon as possible.

The recent budget cuts at the state level — and the pending cuts at the local level — have slowed the push for this new facility. What was once a pressing need to enhance the educational experience of the children of the two targeted schools, in addition to saving money on combined operations, has now been slightly pushed toward the back burner.

There is still a strong need for a new school to serve the students in south Suffolk, but it is also as important to have both communities — Holland and Whaleyville — feel they have a stake in the new school.

In fact, the only chance the school has for being successful is for both communities to feel they are a part of it and that the school is a part of their community. To do this, the school must be centrally located between the two communities.

The fact the proposed school site was not one included in the comprehensive plan may simply prove to be a glitch in the process, but it is worrisome to many that it was not checked beforehand.