Schools built for present and future

Published 8:52 am Saturday, December 27, 2008

This column is being written by a lifelong resident of the Holland community. I am not writing as a school board member, nor as a former city council member. First and foremost, I consider myself a fiscal conservative individual who places a high priority on equal and just educational opportunities for all our children.

My opposition to the consolidation of Southwestern and Robertson schools remains — as strong as it was against the one high school concept that was proposed in the 1980s.

In fact, the consolidation proposal of Southwestern and Robertson has far less vision due to the humanistic side involving the ages of these young children and the future growth of these communities. Even our governor’s program strongly promotes 4-year-old children (pre- K) attending public school in the near future.

Now let us take a brief view of the Holy Neck and Whaleyville boroughs. The two make up nearly one half of the land area in this city. If this city continues to have steady growth in the future, — and it will despite agriculture — we owe our citizens educational facilities that will be second to none.

We presently have 14 elementary schools in this city with six of these schools located within approximately four miles of the core city of downtown Suffolk. These six schools have enrollments ranging from 600 high to a low of 260 students. It is obvious that these students have the privilege of traveling only a few miles each day to attend school while enjoying the neighborhood concept. This is exactly the opportunity young 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 year olds should experience in their early years of school.

It was quite disturbing to read in the Suffolk News-Herald’s Dec. 17 edition where a city planner made the statement, “They don’t have enough kids out there to actually populate those schools”.

I suggest that when someone is not knowledgeable enough concerning the rural setting in our city, one should first know the facts pertaining to all 14 schools in the city. Southwestern and Robertson not only serve as educational facilities but as emergency shelters and other city functions. These schools are the heart and soul of these communities just as Oakland, Booker T. Washington, King’s Fork and Driver are, just to name a few.

It appears to me that since these two boroughs are shouldering the major portion of the agricultural industry, our young children should not be penalized educationally for living in a rural setting. These communities are unique.

Therefore I express “thanks” to our school board members who realized that distance, age, neighborhood/village concept, parental involvement and future growth, were important factors in their position against consolidation of these two schools. Schools are constructed for the present, as well as the future.

Therefore, I ask the City Council to approve the school board’s proposal. Allow funds that have been allocated for one school to be utilized for the construction of a new elementary for the Holland community. I further ask that the Suffolk City Council continue to explore funding for the renovation of Robertson Elementary after the completion of the first facility. I feel that this proposal will have enormous benefits for the city as well as the service to our children.

Due respect must be given to the elected school board members who were chosen to represent the citizens’ concerns and desires of these communities. Now is the time to prove to those of us who may feel as orphans at times to this city, that we are truly partners. Since we, the citizens of these two communities, pay our fair share of taxes, then it becomes our responsibility to share in the decision-making process pertaining to the education of our children in these communities.

It behooves us to exercise vision, hope and justice to a people who love this city and have played continuously by the book.