Rural schools need answers
The Charleston County School District’s plan to shuffle students from one rural school to another doesn’t yet have public support — for good reason.
The plan leaves the communities of Edisto and McClellanville in fear of losing their schools.
Even the Charleston County School Board is equivocating about its own decision to move middle schoolers to different schools, torn between the education experts’ advice and the communities’ feelings.
And while Superintendent Nancy McGinley believes the restructuring would benefit the students academically, her plan seems to be more about changing something that isn’t working well than implementing substantive improvements.
Dr. McGinley and the school board face a daunting task. The rural schools are not making adequate academic progress. Their student ranks are thinning. And they cost more to operate because of their size.
But in an educational climate where teachers are doing backflips to get parents involved in their children’s schools, administrators should strive not to make it more difficult for eager parents to do so.
Hundreds of people who have protested the school board’s recent decisions to move middle school students from Lincoln High School to St. James-Santee Elementary, and to move sixth graders in District 23 (including Jane Edwards Elementary) to Baptist Hill High School. They talked about how important the schools are to their communities. And despite Dr. McGinley’s assurance to the contrary, they talked about their fear that this move would be a step toward eliminating their schools altogether.
The answer, some said, was not reducing the number of grades at Lincoln but building a new school.
It would be nice to have heard more community members protest the schools’ poor performance and demand from the board and administration a plan for improving student achievement.
And it would be nice to have heard more from the administration about just how academics will improve for students after the moves. Or better, what could be done to improve student achievement without moving students.
Rural families are justified in their skepticism of district plans. While some district schools have made progress in recent years, rural schools lag behind.
The Charleston County School District has tried to lure the best and brightest teachers to rural schools, but it is a challenge many don’t want to accept.
The school board agreed to reconsider its decision to move the rural classes to different schools. It is scheduled to vote on March 25.
The discussion should focus on student achievement.
Why will they learn more in a different school? How will the instruction be different? What kind of growth can parents expect? Yes, things are broken, but will these changes really fix things?
If the answers are persuasive, the changes might be worth a try. But if they don’t convince board members that those rural students will get better educations after the move, the board should be demanding a plan that will.