More cops could be coming to Charleston County’s elementary schools.
The county school board agreed 7-1 Monday night to ask law enforcement agencies to place officers in those schools and to pick up the tab.
“We have said, ‘Yes, come bring them to us,’ ” said school Board Chairwoman Cindy Bohn Coats.
The board also decided to move forward with exploring significant changes for some of its most inefficient schools, and schools in McClellanville and Hollywood will see some grade shifts as soon as this fall.
The issue of increased school security has been a controversial one that’s generated substantial discussion in the community. Some have said an increased police presence hurts schools by criminalizing minor incidents.
Still, the board agreed earlier in January to accept North Charleston’s offer to put school resource officers in the city’s elementary schools at no cost to the district. North Charleston officials wanted to boost security after the Newtown, Conn., school massacre in December.
School board member Tom Ducker asked the board to invite other agencies to do the same as North Charleston, and Coats said it was a means to ensure every area had the same protection.
Board members talked about the issue briefly, and board member Elizabeth Moffly was the lone vote against the majority. She said the board needed a workshop to talk about how school resource officers were being used in schools, and it was premature to make this invitation.
“We’re putting the cart before the horse,” she said.
It will be up to each police agency to decide whether to make that offer.
The board also talked about recommendations involving some of its most inefficient schools, specifically those that have shown a combination of troubling trends. Problems include declining enrollment, parents choosing to transfer their children elsewhere, under-used buildings and high per student operating costs.
Board members unanimously agreed to form school/community task forces that will look at recommendations to improve them, such as combining middle schools in West Ashley and exploring an International Baccalaureate program for Memminger Elementary.
Other changes will move forward this fall without that input, and the board didn’t discuss those before voting Monday night. In McClellanville, St. James-Santee Elementary will begin adding seventh and eighth grades to become a pre-K through eighth-grade site. Sixth-graders in District 23 (Hollywood/Ravenel) would be moved from their elementary schools to the Baptist Hill High campus.
“I really think they ran out of steam,” said Coats on the lack of board discussion on the issue during a nearly four-hour meeting.
In other business, the board decided not to further expand the Montessori program at Hursey Elementary in North Charleston, and it agreed to expand the Teach for America program by hiring up to 45 more of its teachers for 2013-14.
Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or (843) 937-5546.