MOUNT PLEASANT — Robert Mirman’s two sons go to Belle Hall Elementary, but neither of two proposed rezoning plans for Mount Pleasant schools would allow them to stay.
The Badham House is one of five sites on tour from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday to benefit the Upper Dorchester County Historical Society.Tickets are $5 and may be purchased at the Klauber Building (where the tour begins), 225 N. Parker Ave., St. George.The other sites include the Indian Field Camp Ground, the Koger-Murray-Carroll House and Appleby Church.
He doesn’t understand why those who crafted the plans think it would be best for his family to travel three times as far on traffic-filled roads to another school, and he said he’s not getting any answers.
That’s one of the reasons he started organizing some of the affected neighborhoods to talk about how they can respond as a group. It’s their goal to delay any decision until everyone, from parents to officials, can have input in the process, he said.
“It’s pretty universal that people are upset,” he said. “We’re very unhappy with the process and the results.”
The District 2 (East Cooper) constituent school board unveiled Nov. 1 two rezoning proposals that gave two options for elementary schools and two corresponding options for middle schools.
Officials have said they need to move children because of overcrowding, and changes are slated to go into effect for the 2013-14 school year.
Although the constituent school board has been working on this issue for 18 months, many parents said they felt blindsided by the plans and that they had no idea this was being discussed. They want a chance to have input on how these options are shaped, and they feel as if they’re not getting that chance.
Marty Belk, who chairs the constituent school board, said the board can’t delay making the change for another year or two because the overcrowding problems are worsening.
“We really don’t have a choice,” she said.
The board gave the public until Nov. 8 to submit written comments through an online form, and Belk said board members will begin sorting through the feedback.
She said it’s going to take a “little while” to do that, although she declined to speculate how long. The only time frame she would commit to was that a decision on the rezoning plans would happen by the end of first semester.
Before any decision is made, she said some sort of public meeting would be held. She hasn’t figured out yet when that would be or how it would be formatted.
“We have to have one that is orderly, and that’s our goal,” she said.
Belk said she feels as if the board has addressed how and why the board drafted the rezoning plans but “people didn’t want to listen.” The board worked with a company specializing in demographics and looked at various scenarios while balancing five priorities: campus capacity, similar curriculum offerings, feeder school concept, socioeconomic distribution and traffic patterns.
Belk said the board isn’t required to have community input before making a decision, but it wanted to have that and will. Nothing is set in stone, and the board is open to adjusting the plans, she said.
Aimee O’Keefe has two children in Park West neighborhood schools, and she said she feels as if the constituent school board isn’t interested in the public’s feedback. It feels as if neighborhoods have been pitted against one another to fight about what they like, she said.
“When you don’t open up your books and say ‘This is why we did this,’ we can only speculate. And with speculation comes fear, and with fear comes anger,” she said. “We don’t trust them. So they say, ‘Don’t worry, we’re going to hear you’ and we don’t trust them.”
Mirman said the public didn’t get a chance to ask about the priorities used to guide the proposals, such as the weight placed on different factors and why affecting a minimal number of families wasn’t an objective.
When difficult decisions are made, not everyone will be happy, he said. But the process to make those decisions should at least be reasonable with people having the chance to give input and understand why their preference wasn’t the end result, he said.
“Neither has happened,” he said.
Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or 937-5546.
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