Parents gather to voice concerns

Published 10:30 pm Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Parents in the Nansemond and Sleepy Hole boroughs gathered at Creekside Elementary School on Monday night to give their opinions on rezoning and schedule change proposals. Suffolk’s School Board will vote on both issues at its Thursday meeting.

“We are here tonight to find out what you all are thinking, because we have important votes coming on Thursday,” said School Board member David Mitnick. “People spoke at public input sessions and answered the questionnaire, but we really didn’t know who was answering the questionnaire. We thought it would be good to hear from the Sleepy Hole and Nansemond boroughs.”

Mitnick, the board member from Sleepy Hole, and Dr. Judith Brooks-Buck, the board member from Nansemond, had the opportunity to listen to their constituents. There were 79 Suffolk residents in attendance.

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More parents voiced concerns regarding the two school schedule proposals, but most parents agreed neither option really solved a problem.

“Let’s just call a spade a spade. Neither of these options works, and neither of them do anything to help with the middle schools,” said Patricia Holloman, a resident of the Nansemond Borough.

Parents agreed on earlier start times but believed that all the schools should be starting earlier for a myriad of reasons.

“In high school, we have to do volunteer hours, and my child needs to have time to do them,” Holloman said.

“We want all of our kids to succeed in extracurricular activities. I don’t have time to get them showered, feed them and do homework if they are let out that late. The earlier the better,” said Jesse Roberts, a resident of the Nansemond Borough.

One parent pleaded for earlier start times because of the inability to get necessary therapy for her child after school. Having earlier start times in school allow students the opportunity to enjoy more after-school activities, and most parents disagreed with a three-tiered system.

The rezoning was a smaller issue at the meeting, but the proposals cause some children to move to unaccredited schools.

“Everyone has concerns, but my wife and I have issues and concerns regarding rezoning,” said Xavier Scott, a resident of Sleepy Hole. “Our children would be rezoned from Nansemond River to Mack Benn, an accredited school to an unaccredited school. That makes no sense. It speaks volumes to us about how you feel about educating our children.”

While accreditation is a concern, Brooks-Buck told parents accreditation standards are expected to change in the coming years.

“They will look at accreditation in a different way. It will focus on progress, not a score. We expect all of the schools to see a shift,” Brooks-Buck said. “Every school has the same pacing guides, and the students learn the same kinds of things. As long as you and your wife stay interested, your child is going to be successful. That is the key part of having a successful child.”

Both Mitnick and Brooks-Buck believe they now have more opinions to help them make their decision.

“They have given me some information I didn’t hear before,” Mitnick said. “I have to really digest the information, because I did hear a lot of conflicting things. I have to do what I feel is best for the city of Suffolk.”

“It lets me know the parents are concerned, and we have to look where the balance is,” Brooks-Buck said. “It makes people feel better when they can air their concerns, which is why David and I did this.”