Rezoning discussion needed

Published 10:27 pm Friday, October 25, 2019

We’re pleased to hear Suffolk Public Schools’ new superintendent, Dr. John B. Gordon III, say there needs to be a conversation about rezoning schools.

For many years, there have been some schools overcrowded and using trailers, while other schools have areas that are rarely used. The city has grown while new schools are opened and filled with students from an overcrowded school, but there has been little to no consideration given to redrawing the school attendance zones across the city at all three levels.

Last year, the school district had the chance to do a citywide rezoning at the elementary and middle school levels, but with parents protesting, the board instead decided to simply fill the new Florence Bowser Elementary and Col. Fred Cherry Middle schools with students from nearby, overcrowded schools and leave the rest of the city alone.

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Asked last week when was the last time a citywide rezoning was done at all three levels, division spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw estimated that “if it was ever done,” it would have likely been in 1990. That was when Nansemond River and Lakeland high schools opened, and some former high school buildings were turned into middle schools, and some former middle school buildings were turned into elementary schools.

In other words, if it’s ever been done, it was probably 30 years ago. It’s been so long that children that weren’t even born yet are now teaching in these overcrowded or underused schools.

Rezoning discussions always have the potential to get ugly quickly. Parents who rightfully want the best for their children always want them to have great teachers and great principals in safe, quality schools that are close to their homes. Anything that parents perceive to be an affront to that is going to be met negatively.

However, we put out the call to the community to realize that it cannot continue this way forever. Suffolk Public Schools cannot continue to build schools, carve out populations for them and leave the rest of the district the way it has been for many years. Even putting aside the rampant housing boom City Council has been approving left and right, there will always be shifts in housing patterns, and shifts in school attendance zones must necessarily accompany them.

With all of Suffolk’s public schools now boasting full accreditation, there is one fewer reason to be opposed to a citywide shift. We hope at least a discussion on this topic comes to fruition.