Norfolk residents speaking out about plan involving consolidating NPS schools

Tidewater Park Elementary School.jfif
Posted at 9:50 PM, Feb 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-16 23:14:23-05

NORFOLK, Va. - People in Norfolk are learning more about a plan involving Norfolk Public Schools (NPS) consolidating schools across the district as part of a master plan to improve city school buildings.

According to NPS officials, the district’s 49 schools and student centers currently operating have an average age of more than 50 years.

Wednesday, News 3 learned of people in the community intending to speak up at a Norfolk School Board meeting to remove Lindenwood Elementary School and Tidewater Park Elementary School from the plan’s list.

Wes Lee just learned about the plan involving Lindenwood this week.

“It’s part of the community,” Lee told News 3.

Lee recalls his children attending the school steps away from their home.

“[It’s] close-knit [and] everyone pretty much knew each other,” he said. “When we’d get off work, we could probably just go and pick them up after school. They’re always standing right outside by the door.”

Others, like John “JP” Paige, spoke up about the district's facilities master plan at Wednesday's school board meeting.

"Making decisions without genuine parent and community input is a direct contradiction to all of these goals and the priorities I hear you all talking about," Paige said before school board members Wednesday.

The plan includes consolidating schools like Lindenwood Elementary and Tidewater Park Elementary.

According to the plan’s current implementation, current Lindenwood students would be re-zoned to Willard Elementary and Taylor Elementary starting this fall. The Madison Alternative Center would move to Lindenwood Elementary this summer.

Meanwhile, Tidewater Park Elementary would close in summer of 2023, and students would move to Ruffner Academy.

The board’s consulting firm, Cooperative Strategies, presented the plan to NPS board members at a retreat earlier this month.

"When we're looking at this, we do not approach this with the deficit mindset, but with what is going to provide the best sustainable operational environment in this physical environment for all students equitably,” Cooperative Partners told board members during the retreat.

Paige believes it's vital to include input from the community before any action is made on a school where family has walked through its halls.

“That’s going to impact a lot of children, [and] that’s going to impact a lot of parents,” Paige told News 3. “If it’s what they want to do and we can all come together and agree, then let’s move forward.”

Meanwhile, Lee is open to the idea of consolidation.

“Just the diversity, people coming together and create an elevated level of understanding,” Lee said.

He agrees with Paige, adding families and others in the community should have a seat at the table.

“I think they have the right idea in mind - it’s just we’re going to need everybody working together,” Lee said.

At Wednesday’s meeting, school board officials said they’ll discuss the plan, including what involves Lindenwood Elementary, at a public meeting on March 2.

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