School Board considers nine options

Published 7:44 pm Monday, September 6, 2010

As it prepares for its regular meeting on Thursday, the Suffolk School Board finds itself still on its own regarding the location of an elementary school that would serve much of the southern portion of the city.

And School Board members have a list of nine “legal options” that have been presented to them by their attorney to consider as part of the process.

Last week, the City Council turned down a School Board request for a joint meeting of the governing bodies prior to the School Board’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting. Members were split over whether they even wanted to meet with their counterparts at all.

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The requested meeting would have given the two groups a chance to discuss an issue that they have batted back and forth for months, failing to find common ground or move the issue forward in the process.

At issue is the location of an elementary school that would replace the aging and deteriorating Robertson and Southwestern Elementary schools, which serve the Whaleyville and Holland areas of Suffolk, respectively.

With City Council support for only one school site to serve the small student bodies at both existing facilities, School Board members have worked to find a location somewhere in between the two communities that would reduce travel by students from both areas.

City Council, however, has stood behind Suffolk’s comprehensive plan, which calls for schools to be built within the city’s villages, or downtown. Members recently made their own recommendation for the new site, suggesting that the school be built in Holland.

Acknowledging the apparent impasse between the two bodies, School Board Attorney Wendell M. Waller has presented his board with a list of nine options for resolving the situation.

That list, after being sought through a Freedom of Information request by the Suffolk News-Herald, was provided by the School Board “as a courtesy” to the City Council prior to its meeting last week.

Among the options under consideration are the following:

  • Option 1: Choose a school site within either Whaleyville or Holland.
  • Option 2: Approve an unidentified site, which, according to Waller’s document “is the only site currently under consideration by the School Board, that comes close to meeting the Comprehensive Plan’s desire to locate the school in a rural village.”
  • Option 3: Ask the City Council to amend the comprehensive plan so a school could be located outside the villages.
  • Option 4: Amend the school system’s capital improvements plan to allow for separate schools to be built in the two villages, and ask for extra money from the city to build both schools.
  • Option 5: Amend the capital improvements plan to provide for renovating both existing school facilities and ask for the money to accomplish the project from the city.
  • Options 6 and 7: Amend the capital improvements plan to allow for renovating one of the existing schools and replacing the other and ask for the city to fund the projects.
  • Option 8: Table any action on replacing or improving the schools until more money is available for school construction.
  • Option 9: Indefinitely table any action on replacing or improving the schools.

The School Board meets at 7 p.m. on Thursday in the City Council Chambers at 441 Market St.