Two rural communities scored a victory Monday night after a loud and hard fight about whether middle grades would be moved from their schools.
The Charleston County School Board bowed to the community's desires and unanimously reversed its previous decision. That means seventh- and eighth-graders will stay put at Lincoln High for 2013-14, as will sixth-graders in Holly- wood area elementary schools. The vote was met with cheers and applause from dozens of residents in the audience.
“We reached out to the board, and we're beyond gratified with the response,” said John Fisher, who lives on Edisto Island and wanted to keep sixth-graders at Jane Edwards Elementary.
In other business, the board agreed to renew its contract with the Charleston Charter School for Math & Science for an additional 10 years. The deal will allow the charter school to expand by 80 students to 560, but it will not receive more space on the former Rivers Middle School campus. The school also will have to submit annual reports on its student diversity and achievement.
On the rural schools issue, residents in McClellanville and Hollywood feared that moving the grades elsewhere would further shrink the schools' enrollment and lead to closures. School Superintendent Nancy McGinley proposed the shifts because she said it was in students' best academic interests, and she said she had no intention of shuttering schools in either place.
In January, the board supported McGinley's plan, but some board members later said they didn't realize what they had approved. The board agreed to host meetings in McClellanville and Hollywood to see what parents and community members wanted, and hundreds showed up.
The vast majority of attendees said they opposed the board's action and wanted to keep the current grade configuration, and the board's action Monday makes that request a reality.
The board talked little about whether it would reverse its previous decision and spent the bulk of its time debating whether to change other previously approved actions that weren't directly related to the grade shifts.
After the vote, the board delved into a new proposal from member John Barter, which was to create a sixth-grade class at Baptist Hill High that students could voluntarily opt to attend. All of the elementary schools in Hollywood still will offer sixth grades, but this would give parents another alternative, officials said.
Barter said the board wants to ensure students receive the same quality education, regardless of where their school is located, and he asked for the board to receive monthly updates on rural education.
“We'll not turn loose of this,” Barter said.
Board members Chris Collins, Michael Miller and Elizabeth Moffly voted against the majority on the optional sixth-grade campus at Baptist Hill High.
Moffly wanted to know how much it would cost before making a decision, and she said she'd like to instead figure out how to move sixth grade to Lincoln High and return seventh and eighth grades to Jane Edwards Elementary. Ducker said he, too, wanted to talk about adding grades to Jane Edwards.
Collins said he was concerned that the optional sixth grade at Baptist Hill would lessen the number of sixth-graders at elementary schools, and Miller echoed his sentiments. Miller said he feared that this would lead to all sixth graders being housed at the high school, which would eliminate the option to stay at elementary schools.
Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or (843) 937-5546.
Lincoln eighth-grader Tyqawn Franklin and his science teacher Tiffany Jenkins high five one another Monday after Tyquawn answered 8 out of 10 questions correctly on a computerized quiz at the McClellenville school.×