Parents, community members speak out at public meeting on Norfolk schools consolidation plan

NPS consolidation meeting (March 2).jfif
Posted at 9:38 PM, Mar 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-02 23:12:49-05

NORFOLK, Va. - For Timie Watkins, Lindenwood Elementary School in Norfolk is a special place.

“I had some teachers there that I loved,” Watkins said. “It’s a home.”

She and her children both attending the school, many say, is rich in history.

Lindenwood parent Lionel Nunn said the campus is convenient for his daughter to attend kindergarten.

“It’s a really good school for my daughter. She’s learning a lot,” Nunn told News 3. “It's, like, literally walking distance.”

But Nunn's daughter may be going to a different school next year.

Wednesday, Norfolk Public Schools held a public hearing on their facilities master plan involving schools throughout the district.

The district’s consultant partners, Cooperative Strategies, cited concerns such as poor conditions and declining environment for the recommended consolidations.

“We have the highest under-utilization; we have undersized schools; we have high leave rates of parents opting out. Something has to give,” Cooperative Strategies partner David Sturtz said at Wednesday’s public meeting.

The plan would involve current Lindenwood students being re-zoned to Taylor Elementary School and Willard Elementary School this fall.

Seventy-six K-5 Lindenwood students would be re-zoned to Taylor Elementary School, while 245 K-5 Lindenwood students would be re-zoned to Willard Elementary School.

READ: Norfolk residents speaking out about plan involving consolidating NPS schools

Meanwhile, Lindenwood's facility would be re-purposed for the Madison Secondary Alternative Education Program.

Another school, Tidewater Park Elementary School, would close in the summer of 2023. Students would be re-zoned to Ruffner Academy, which would convert to a 3-8 program for the 2023-2024 school year.

Folks like John “JP” Paige voiced their thoughts on Lindenwood Elementary School being within the plan.

“How much loss must our communities experience before we come together? Not just us, but you with us,” Paige said. “You’re talking about taking a community school away from a community.”

“There are a lot of people around there that want their children to go to the school in the neighborhood,” Watkins said during the meeting.

Those like Nunn and Darnehsa Robinson are open to their kids going to different schools.

“Merging the students from where they are from with another neighborhood so they can get different types of cultures around them [and] so they can get a better education,” Robinson.

As for Watkins, she wants to see Lindenwood students to stay close to home.

“I just know that it’s going to be longer for the children to get home. A lot of parents walk their children to the school,” Watkins said. “They feel safe with their children being closer to them.”

According to the plan, the next steps include a board vote for March 16 for schools such as Lindenwood, Madison and Easton Preschool.