Charleston County School Board to hear recommendations on school changes at Monday night meeting

Changes at some of Charleston County’s most inefficient schools could happen as soon as this fall.

Possible school changes

The following are recommendations the board will consider:

District 1 (McClellanville): Move seventh and eighth grades from Lincoln High campus to St. James-Santee Elementary. Seventh grade would be added this fall.

District 3 (James Island): Designate James Island Elementary as site for students who do not want to enroll in new Montessori program at Murray-LaSaine Elementary.

District 23 (Hollywood): Move sixth-graders from elementary schools to Baptist Hill High, which already has seventh and eighth graders on campus.

School officials also plan to create school/community task force groups to consider the following ideas for the future:

District 1: Explore program options at Lincoln High School, such as keeping core academic classes on site and offering career courses online or at the career center at Wando High.

District 9 (Johns Island): Look at pairing Frierson and Angel Oak Elementary schools, converting one into a pre-K through second-grade site and the other into a grades 3-5 site after Angel Oak is renovated.

District 10 (West Ashley): Merge St. Andrews Middle and West Ashley Middle into one middle school.

District 20 (downtown): Explore an International Baccalaureate program for Memminger Elementary and create a stand-alone middle school.

District 23: Convert one existing elementary school into an early childhood center.

Source: Charleston County School District

District leaders plan to recommend tonight changing the grade configuration for some McClellanville and Hollywood-area schools starting this fall. Officials also are looking at creating school/community task forces to talk about more dramatic changes in other schools in the future.

In McClellanville, St. James-Santee Elementary would begin adding seventh and eighth grades to become a pre-K through eighth grade site, according to the proposal. Sixth graders in District 23 (Hollywood/Ravenel) would be moved from their elementary schools to the Baptist Hill High campus. The board is being asked to approve both ideas.

Some of the bigger changes the task forces will consider include merging West Ashley’s middle schools and converting one District 23 elementary school into an early childhood center. The task force groups are intended to ensure the community’s input is a part of the decision-making process, according to the district.

School board Chairwoman Cindy Bohn Coats said the superintendent hadn’t discussed these specific recommendations with her, but the board wants to address these schools.

“This is a board that has made it very clear that we want to improve efficiency, operating effectiveness and provide excellent programs to every student in every school,” she said. “We are looking to see what is the most efficient way to operate and ensure every student has access to the same programs.”

The school board talked at a workshop in November about its schools that were showing a combination of troubling trends, such as declining enrollment, parents choosing to transfer their children elsewhere, under-used buildings and high per student operating costs.

They brainstormed solutions, and district leaders promised to research their suggestions and return with recommendations. The district’s presentation to the board today will be the first substantial public discussion on this issue since then.

At least one community already has started talking about the board’s ideas. The District 1 (McClellanville) constituent school board held a community meeting last week.

Thomas Colleton Jr., the board’s chairman, said none of the roughly 100 people in attendance liked the proposal of sending Lincoln High students to Wando High for career classes, nor did they like moving middle school students to the elementary school campus.

“Nobody wanted to transfer their kids out of the district,” Colleton said. “And any time they talk about moving students, that doesn’t go over well.”

Colleton said the two most popular suggestions included creating a pre-K through 12th-grade school and building a new school for the community that was closer to Awendaw to draw some Mount Pleasant students.

“They had pretty good dialogue and weighed the pros and cons,” he said. “They didn’t come in with preconceived notions.”

He said the community plans to meet again to discuss its top options and make a recommendation to the superintendent.

Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or 937-5546.

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