JULY 2, 2007

VIRGINIA BEACH — Early 50 years ago, Robin Davenport was an eager first-grader at Creeds Elementary School.

Then, many of the students and staff lived in the same rural neighborhoods and attended the same churches. The principal’s husband ran one of the area’s few gas stations, and probably repaired the Davenport cars.

Not a lot has changed. The closest full-service restaurant is still a 20-minute drive from the school. Active farms and fruit stands still dot the roads.

And Robin Davenport continues to hang around the school. He’s the principal.

In a city where thousands of residents come and go each year, the 68-year-old school is a constant, isolated from traffic and commerce farther north.

The city’s smallest elementary school is so far south, it’s closer to the North Carolina border than to Pungo. With a little traffic, it can easily take an hour to drive to the school from the Beach’s Town Center.

Every child rides the bus or is driven by a parent. And it’s not uncommon for the school nurse to take a sick child home.

Creeds is one of the most stable elementaries in the city. Only a few dozen students come and go each year.

This year, the closure of Norfolk’s Ford plant hit home, Davenport said. Several of the students, whose families had moved to the Creeds community to live in the country, moved away.

Among the school’s 63 staffers, Davenport says, at least one-third live within the vast Creeds attendance zone, which encompasses parts or all of Blackwater, Creeds, Knotts Island and Pungo.

Half of the school’s employees have other ties to the school. Many of them, their children or their grandchildren have gone there.

“It just goes from the next generation to the next,” said Davenport, who grew up on farmland 10 minutes from the school.

“Someday, that’ll stop. But it won’t happen in my lifetime or probably the next.”

When her son enrolled in the late 1950s, Bessie Davenport began volunteering at the school. The next year, she got a job in the cafeteria.

Robin Davenport, who recently learned that his mother’s volunteer efforts landed her that job, said that over the past decade, he has hired many volunteer parents.

“You get to know these people,” he said. “You know what they’re capable of. You know their work ethic.”

His mother eventually rose to the position of cafeteria manager.

Though she is 88 and has long since retired, she still has colleagues at the school.

When Davenport attended the school, it served grades 1 to 7. He went straight from Creeds to Kellam High School. Now Creeds serves kindergarten through fifth grade.

The school remains small, with only 285 students enrolled during the school year. Birdneck Elementary, the city’s largest, had about 1,000 this year.

The school has deep roots. Creeds opened as one of Princess Anne County’s high schools in 1939.

In 1954, it became an elementary school.

Six years ago, contractors renovated the building, and now the school’s library shares a wall and a door with a branch of the public library.

Through mid-August, the school library will host reading nights every Wednesday.

“It’s such a family,” Davenport said. A “friendly school.”

Lauren Roth, (757) 222-5133,