MOUNT PLEASANT - A new magnet school that would serve only East Cooper students could open as soon as fall 2014 and would give some relief to the community's over-crowded, high-achieving schools.
The Charleston County School Board signed off Monday night on a plan to establish a task force that will develop a theme for the magnet school.
The new school would use the former Whitesides Elementary School campus on Rifle Range Road. That building has undergone a more than $2 million renovation and is being used this year by Sullivan's Island Elementary. That school will leave by next fall when its new building is finished, and the space would become the new home for the magnet school.
“This would be part of our short-term solution to bring more seats into the District 2 (East Cooper) community without addressing boundary changes,” said School Superintendent Nancy McGinley.
The new magnet school is one of a handful of ways district leaders are looking to provide relief to the community's rapidly growing schools as quickly as possible.
The board likely will expand the capacity of the new Jennie Moore Elementary and Laing Middle school buildings by 300 students each. Those schools would open in August 2015. At that same time, new attendance lines approved by the District 2 constituent school board also would go into effect, and the changes are intended to better balance students among schools.
Other building projects that will have enrollment implications include opening the new Center for Advanced Studies at Wando High, which will be a roughly $50 million high tech career center finished by August 2014, and securing land for a new elementary school in the Carolina Park development. That school isn't funded yet but could open as soon as 2017.
District officials plan to talk more about their future plans for Mount Pleasant schools at a presentation Wednesday night at a special Town Council meeting.
The new magnet school would be the first in Mount Pleasant to be open to any town student and not have a specific neighborhood attendance zone.
No child would be forced to attend the new magnet school, so children would enroll on a voluntary basis. That's why it's critical for the task force to pick a focus that would attract parents to the site, McGinley said.
“We feel it would be more acceptable to families and less disruptive because they would be open to have their children attend,” she said.
The district's recommendation is to open the new magnet school as a K-3 school with up to 100 students per grade, for a total of 400 students. Fourth-graders would be added in 2015 and a fifth-grade class the following year for a total of 600 new seats.
The theme will be developed during the next few months, and the board would decide whether to approve the school by February. A principal would be hired shortly thereafter.
Of the students who live in Mount Pleasant, 668 attend schools outside of their district. Most are either at School of the Arts or Academic Magnet High, and 74 are at Buist Academy.
The board agreed 7-1 to creating the taskforce, with board member Elizabeth Moffly opposing the majority. Board member Chris Collins was not present.
Moffly, who lives in Awendaw, said she voted against the proposal because she thinks Sullivan's Island Elementary should stay in the former Whitesides building, and she'd rather put money toward building a badly needed elementary school in the Carolina Park development.
Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or (843) 937-5546.