Mount Pleasant parents reel with shock, frustration when proposed attendance boundary changes revealed
MOUNT PLEASANT — The woman shook her raised hand as she tried in vain to get the moderator's attention.
School overcrowding depends on the school district.
In Charleston County, the areas where students outnumber classroom spaces generally are in Mount Pleasant, but pockets of overcrowding can be found in West Ashley (such as St. Andrew's School of Math and Science) and on James Island (Harbor View Elementary). District officials are working to rebuild those schools.
In Dorchester District 2, 19 of 22 schools are at or above capacity. Windsor Hill Arts Infused Elementary School, Gregg Middle School and the newly opened Pye Elementary School are the only schools with space available. The issue does not affect Dorchester District 4.
Growth in Berkeley has been in the lower part of the county, resulting in a lack of classroom space in areas including Hanahan, Goose Creek, Daniel Island, Cypress Gardens and Sheep Island.
Compiled by Diette Courrege Casey and Brenda Rindge
She didn't get to ask her question publicly Thursday night, and neither did any of the other roughly 400 parents who came to a meeting about proposed rezoning options for Mount Pleasant elementary and middle schools.
Click here to complete the District 2 (Mount Pleasant) Rezoning Survey.
Parents seethed in frustration at their inability to talk about their concerns in an open forum, and many said they felt as if the gathering and the process that preceded it didn't take their input into account.
“I wish they would've allowed us to ask questions,” said Amy Cantey, who has children enrolled in Park West neighborhood schools. One of the options would allow her children to stay put, while the other would put them in new schools.
The meeting at the former Wando High campus began with a 30-minute presentation on how the Mount Pleasant constituent school board developed the two options for elementary schools and two options for middle schools. Attendees then were dispersed to four areas to look at four maps to see how it would affect their children.
The main goal of the rezoning is to relieve overcrowding in the Park West neighborhood schools. Doing so has a ripple effect across Mount Pleasant, and the attendance boundaries would change for almost every elementary and middle school.
The exception appeared to be Sullivan's Island Elementary.
There are pros and cons to each plan. For example, plan “A” would allow entire elementary school communities to feed into the same middle schools, while plan “B” would split up some of those.
Parents were told to fill out online surveys with their feedback by Nov. 8, and they did not have any opportunity to ask presenters questions or give their opinions. The meeting never was intended to allow oral comments.
Parent Angel Payton-Harmon said it seemed as if the meeting was structured so the constituent school board could avoid hearing any backlash or criticism. She felt like the meeting was held so officials could say they had a meeting rather than to actually get the community's feedback.
“This is outrageous,” said Payton-Harmon, who was upset at one of the options that would force her seventh-grade daughter to move from Laing Middle to Moultrie Middle next year. “We're all floored. Did the superintendent know this is how this meeting was going to happen?”
Constituent school boards oversee attendance boundaries for district schools, and Marty Belk, who heads the Mount Pleasant board, said members have been working for 18 months on a rezoning plan.
She said principals, PTAs and School Improvement Councils were asked to give their thoughts on the priorities that guided the process. But some of those leaders said they were not involved in drafting these plans.
This issue is an especially sensitive one for this community, which boasts the highest-performing schools in the county and some of the most engaged parents. Many parents have bought homes in Mount Pleasant based on where their children go to school, and they don't want to be moved.
Parents milled around talking in small clusters, wondering aloud whether their children would be able to attend their current school next year if they provided transportation, or whether the constituent board would listen to their feedback.
“We want Plan 'C,' ” said one small group of Belle Hall Elementary parents, who learned that their school community would be split apart in both options.
Angie Harden, the school's PTA president, said neither she nor others in the school had the chance to shape the plan, and she already had a meeting scheduled with the school's principal to talk more about what parents could do.
Officials said they planned to review the surveys and comments and hope to make a decision by the end of the first semester. The changes are slated to go into effect for the 2013-14 school year.
Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at 937-5546.