Norfolk parents, community concerned over possible elementary consolidation

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Some big changes could be in store for Norfolk Public Schools. 

On Monday evening, district leaders and the community met to talk about the potential changes. It includes closing two elementary schools, and converting Lake Taylor Middle School to a K-8 building.

Poplar Halls and Fairlawn Elementary schools are the campuses that would be consolidated. During the question and answer portion of the meeting, many addressed district officials saying they aren’t sure if this is the answer.

NPS said it has tough decisions ahead.

“The biggest challenge that we have is that we still have an issue with declining enrollment and some aging facilities that are in need of major renovations and yet we don’t have a pot of money to accomplish that,” said Dr. Melinda Boone, NPS superintendent.

According to the presentation at tonight’s meeting, some of the benefits of consolidating to a K-8 school include an easier transition for students from elementary to middle school and better collaboration between teachers to address the needs of students from grade to grade. The presentation also cited a study that showed K-8 students outperformed other children in traditional school models. 

“The catholic schools have been doing it forever and it works well, as I said they keep it all together,” said Jan Lynn Erie.

While there are supporters of the idea, many in the audience still had concerns.

One concern in particular is space. A potential layout of the consolidated campus was shown at the meeting.

“The math doesn’t work out. I just want to know where my students are going to be housed,” said Corey Larson, a music teacher at Poplar Halls.

Others are worried about the age gap among students

“I just really am not sure, am not comfortable with my 5-year -old being in the same class, I mean building with 14-year-olds, or in a bus or at the bus stop,” said parent Crystal Parker. “At the bus stop there’s very little supervision and they’re impressionable.”

The district is stressing this is just an option and nothing has been decided for now.

Dr. Boone wants the community to know she’s listening.

“We certainly heard a lot of suggestions that both the administration and the task force will go back and review,” she said.

According to district officials, it would take an estimated $17 million for the necessary upgrades and renovations at Fairlawn and Poplar Halls to continue operating as their own campuses.

If the consolidation happens, Lake Taylor Middle School would become the 4th K-8 campus in the district. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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