Parents concerned over two schools closing and converting another to K-8

NORFOLK, Va. - Some parents are concerned and upset about how two elementary schools, Fairlawn and Poplar Halls, could potentially close. Monday night, Norfolk Public Schools held a meeting to get feedback on a potential K-8 school to open in their place.

On Monday, consultants from Cooperative Strategies provided updates on work done so far and sought input from the community as they formulate their next round of recommendations to the school board and administration. Their plan would be to combine the student population from Fairlawn and Poplar Halls Elementary with Lake Taylor Middle School to create a K-8 school.

Some parents were emotional.

"With everything going on now, and the bullying and the harassment, to me, having younger kids with the older kids will cause additional issues," said April Marshall. Her grandson is currently attending a Pre-K program at Fairlawn Elementary.

Norfolk Public Schools Superintendent Melinda Boone was on hand to field questions from parents and the community.

"We were prepared for the emotion that comes with school boundaries and potentially closing schools," said Boone.

Some of that emotion came from combining a wide range of ages under one roof. Marshall expressed concerns about her young grandson being mixed with middle schoolers.

"Watching older kids do certain things he shouldn’t be doing is an issue, as well as him riding the bus with older kids," said Marshall.

Other concerns included how overcrowded the K-8 school could be, potentially cut programs and teachers spread thin.

"At the end of the day, we still have some significant challenges we must address. Declining enrollment and major facilities in need of repair. In the end, some tough decisions have to be made," said Boone.

However, Boone said the district currently has three successful K-8 schools including Crossroads, Ghent and Southside STEM at Campostella. The district said they, along with the consulting firm, will look at all comments received online, on paper and in person and find ways to address them.