SPS concludes public meetings on rezoning plans

Published 9:48 am Friday, May 3, 2024

Over the past several days, Suffolk Public Schools has hosted meetings to discuss the division’s rezoning plans. The purpose of the meetings was to inform and allow public input on the plans.

This proposal originates from a 1970s lawsuit against the Nansemond County School Board and superintendent. The lawsuit claimed that the school system was segregated, which was in violation of federal law as established by Brown v. Board of Education (1954).

Leaders are aiming for this rezoning to equalize racial demographics across the district and ultimately address the issue with the federal courts.

Email newsletter signup

While discussing the racial disparity topic with Gordon, one attendee questioned the order by the Department of Justice.

“If we’re trying to elevate all these schools to meet these standards, why is that based on the racial component?” they asked.

“The current school boundaries show percentages that aren’t close to what they need to be according to what our desegregation order states,” Gordon replied. So it’s not just trying to elevate the schools; it’s based on the demographics of where the kids actually live. That’s the part that’s being shifted to make sure that we meet the needs of the order.”

After Gordon said that the rezoning primarily was based on the demographics due to the desegregation line, the attendee questioned how this impacts how well students learn.

“That’s not in correlation with how well a school performs. Why are we basing off how well you do in school on that, versus, what just works best for families in that area,” they said. “On transportation, why is that not the number one reason…?”

Gordon followed.

“I definitely see what you are saying,” he said. “but the court order doesn’t say ‘transportation.’”

The attendee followed up, asking if the “court order trumps what our students are going to get.” Gordon replied, “Yes, it does.” The attendee expressed that the order was a “little backward.”

Following the meeting, one attendee expressed that “the focus needs to be on what’s best for the kids” regarding the ongoing rezoning issue. Gordon commented on the meeting and thanked the parents for sharing their issues.

“Anytime that you talk about rezoning and having elementary school children of a particular age go to a different school, there’s always going to be passion behind it. But what I really appreciated was the fact that the families had some legitimate questions, everyone was very professional, and they brought us some things to think about,” Gordon said.

On the divisive issue, Gordon says the meetings are held not only to explain the “why” but also to receive community feedback and share it with the School Board before the vote. On ways for the school community to connect with SPS on the issue, Gordon says they contact their individual schools and also send emails.

“They have the opportunity to come speak at the May school board meeting and June school board meeting for public comment. We didn’t have anyone to come for public comment at our April school board meeting, but our doors are always open for communication,” he said. “It’s going to be our job to make sure we compile the information so we can give it to the board so they can make an educated decision.”

For more information on the SPS Elementary School Rezonings, go to www.spsk12.net.