School Board approves rezoning plan

Published 11:58 pm Thursday, May 12, 2011

Students from Robertson and Mount Zion elementary schools will be relocated to Southwestern, Booker T. Washington and Elephant’s Fork elementary schools in a rezoning plan the Suffolk School Board adopted May 12.

The board also unanimously approved a revised budget, which includes the closing of Robertson and Mount Zion.

With the new plan, all of Mount Zion’s 206 students will attend Elephant’s Fork in the fall. The current Robertson district will be split, with 56 students heading to Southwestern and 125 going to Booker T. Washington.

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Students in the area east of Greenway Boulevard will be placed at Booker T. Washington. Everyone of west of the road will go to Southwestern.

Terry Napier, director of Facilities and Planning, said the rezoning committee tried to keep the new zones as contiguous as the old zones.

The committee’s goals were to minimize increased travel times, keep equitable school capacities, respect established neighborhood boundaries and impact as few schools as possible.

New mobile units will be placed at each of the schools to accommodate the new pupils.

The plan, prepared by a committee formed by Superintendent Deran Whitney, also highlighted projected bus travel times for students.

“One of the primary goals through this process was to decrease and minimize travel time for our students,” Whitney said.

However, the committee surveyed 10 random areas and estimated students in seven of the areas will have increased bus times.

Students in the Whaleyville area likely will see the biggest increase in time on the bus. The projections showed their current ride time of about 15 minutes to Robertson will increase to about 35 minutes to Southwestern.

Lonnie Reavis, transportation coordinator, said some of the bus travel times are increased because the buses have to be routed around back-road bridges.

Before the conclusion of the meeting, two Robertson parents made last-ditch efforts to sway the board to keeping the school open.

“Nobody’s thinking about our kids,” parent Candice Gallop said. “Nobody stopped to ask us what we thought.”

Board member Enoch Copeland told the parents to let their voices be heard during the upcoming elections and speak up for the area.

“Make yourselves known,” he said. “This is a golden opportunity to start the work. I personally think you deserve a school in that community.”