Whither the School?

By: Jarrod Aldom
By: Jarrod Aldom

It's an issue that just keeps hanging around. If they can find the money, Harrisonburg will build a new elementary school. WHSV found out the question for the school board and other groups is where?

Everyone agrees Harrisonburg needs a new elementary school. But some groups can't agree where it should be. Members of the CHANGE committee want the new school in the center of the northeast corner of the city.

"It's an area that deserves a school, it's the only section of the city that doesn't have one," says Ben Fortney, on the steering committee of CHANGE. "It has a high student population, and of course it has a very diverse population. It has a Latino population, African American, Caucasian."

That's where the school board intends to put it, north of East Market Street and east of Route 11. But it needs a suitable spot, one with 15-20 acres of land for a building capable of holding 500 students.

The CHANGE members are hoping the school board will reconsider the old Lucy Simms School as a place to put a new elementary school. But the school board members said not to bother, as this is a dead issue.

Two years ago, the land was given back to the city and now, it's being turned into a community center. And board members argue the old school doesn't fit the size criteria. But Fortney says there are ways around that because of Sampson Park nearby.

"The land is available if part of the park is used and there is a precedent for that actually," says Fortney. "I think at Waterman there's a park adjacent to that school so it wouldn't be unusual."

Fortney says CHANGE's main concern is for students to be able to easily get to the school by walking or riding bikes. The CHANGE group has a meeting with the school board on July 15th to present their concerns.

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