School site impasse continues

Published 12:59 am Saturday, September 11, 2010

Although they declined to overtly support a suggestion that they table the matter of a new southern elementary school until after the November elections, School Board members on Thursday were unable to decide just what they should do about the process.

Their indecision on the issue effectively puts off any resolution until at least October, when the board is next scheduled to meet.

“A new board or a new council could bring different folks with different views,” School Board member Thelma Hinton said after the meeting. “At that point, we could come back to the table. We’re just in a deadlock now.”

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Hinton had moved during the meeting to table to matter and readdress it post-election, when at least some new members will be seated on both the School Board and the City Council.

The two bodies have been struggling to reach an agreement over the location of a new elementary school that would replace Southwestern and Robertson Elementary schools, which serve the Holland and Whaleyville communities, respectively.

Earlier this year, the School Board submitted a proposed site centrally located between the two communities. The Planning Commission and City Council turned that site down because it did not conform to the city’s comprehensive plan.

In August, the City Council recommended a site in Holland, which the Board rejected because it would not serve both communities as well as a centrally located site.

School Board members have requested a meeting with City Council, but council members last month balked at setting a date for such a conference.

“We offered a token, and they didn’t want it,” Debranksi said.

Hinton got no support for her motion to postpone further discussions. A motion by member William Whitley, who sought to release information about factors such as bus routes connected to the site City Council had recommended, similarly died for lack of support.

Whitley’s said school officials had “wanted to show City Council the information, but they haven’t decided to meet with us to see it. This is stuff the public should know about our justification for not agreeing with City Council on its site.”

“It’s a philosophical difference,” board member Dr. Michael Debranksi said. “Members of the school board are voting for what they think is best for the students. City Council is concerned with placing a school where it would be best for the economic growth of the city. If their final decision is to build a school in a different area, I don’t see any movement.”

Chairwoman Lorraine Skeeter said she’s not sure what it will take to move the situation forward. But, she added, “We’re getting a new school. We just don’t know when.”