Schools request joint meeting

Published 10:20 pm Saturday, February 5, 2011

School: Southwestern Elementary School, in the village of Holland, is one of two schools that would be replaced with one new school under a City Council-approved capital improvements plan.

School Board members are hoping once again to meet with City Council about the site of a new elementary school in the southern and western portions of the city.

The Suffolk School Board decided this week to send two School Board members to meet behind closed doors with two City Council members to discuss possible sites for the proposed school to replace Robertson and Southwestern elementary schools.

A meeting of only two members of a public body does not meet the standards for a meeting to be required to be open, under the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

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The School Board chose Chairman Michael Debranski and Vice Chairwoman Thelma Hinton to meet with two City Council members.

This is not the first time the School Board has initiated a request to meet with the council about the new school. The board asked for a joint meeting of the full boards in August last year. City Council shot down the idea in September, with some members saying they have made their position clear and do not need to meet again to repeat it.

The debate on how to deal with the aging Southwestern and Robertson buildings in Holland and Whaleyville has been ongoing for years, with no resolution apparently in sight at any point.

On Wednesday, Debranski asked for direction from the board as to where he and Hinton should focus their priorities when they meet with the City Council.

Hinton asked the board if they should focus on adding one or two schools to replace the elementary schools. She said there are already too many overcrowded schools and too many students being bused long distances.

“We are holding the children hostage, and it needs to stop,” Hinton said.

“My position is we need to sit down with Council and convey the importance of having two schools,” said Enoch Copeland, who represents the borough where Southwestern is located.

City Council last week approved a capital improvements plan that outlines funding for one school to be built. The first year of the plan includes money for acquisition, engineering and design, while the second year includes the full amount for the school to be built.

“I don’t understand why we don’t do what we originally had planned,” Copeland said. “We are allowing others to make our decisions for us.”

According to Bethanne Bradshaw, Suffolk Public Schools spokeswoman, the school board sent its request to the City Council and is are awaiting a response. However, city spokeswoman Debbie George said Friday afternoon the city had not yet received the request.