New schools on their way

Published 9:32 pm Thursday, January 14, 2016

Editor’s note: This version of the story reflects corrections in the location of the middle school and the potential cost savings of using prototypes.

Two new schools in North Suffolk are moving along in the process of one day becoming reality.

The School Board heard during its meeting Thursday that design on both schools is 65 percent complete. Director of Facilities and Planning Terry Napier said prototypes are being used to speed things along.

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The new middle school is modeled after Page Middle School in Gloucester. The new elementary school will look similar to Suffolk’s Hillpoint and Pioneer elementary schools. Both new schools are larger than their models, however.

Suffolk Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Deran Whitney said there will be minor changes inside and outside to make the schools unique. Using prototypes is saving several months on the design process with a “minimal” cost savings.

The population of Florence Bowser Elementary School will begin attending Driver Elementary in September of this year so that the school can be demolished during construction on the site. The new school will be built on the site of the old school, plus an additional 12 acres surrounding it on two sides that are under contract.

The new elementary school, slated for 1,000 students, will replace both Driver and Florence Bowser.

The new middle school will be located in Burbage Grant and serve 800.

The division aims for a July 2018 completion for both schools, so that students can begin school in both buildings that September.

Board Member Lorraine Skeeter asked during the meeting how many years it would be after the schools open until she could expect to see mobile units on the site.

“As we look at the development, we can see this is not going to solve all of our issues,” Whitney said.

Schools in the northern end of the city are severely overcrowded. John Yeates Middle School, for example, had 17 mobile units last school year. It will be supplemented by, rather than replaced by, the new middle school.

During an organizational meeting earlier Thursday, the Chairman Michael Debranski and Vice Chairman Enoch Copeland were re-elected to their positions by virtue of being the only nominations.

The board also approved the current slate of committee members to continue serving.