MOUNT PLEASANT — New attendance boundaries for elementary and middle schools won’t go into effect until 2015, but parents soon will be able to see how their families will be affected by rezoning.
The District 2 (East Cooper) constituent school board unanimously agreed last week to wait until fall 2015 to change schools’ attendance lines, and it also signed off on a new rezoning plan that’s slated to go into effect for the 2015-16 school year.
“Rezoning is not going to make everyone happy, but we’ve done the best we can do with all the input,” said Marty Belk, chairwoman of the constituent school board.
The Post and Courier requested copies of the approved attendance-line changes, but Belk said those maps weren’t available yet. She hoped to have that information ready for publication within a week, and a community meeting will be held this month.
Officials say rezoning is needed because schools are overcrowded. The constituent school board initially planned to rezone schools for the 2013-14 school year, but it pulled back on that plan after an outcry from parents who didn’t like the proposals and said they hadn’t had a chance to give input.
The constituent school board has been meeting for months to develop a new proposal, and it has talked with town officials, school principals, an advisory committee with a representative from each school, and representatives of neighborhoods.
Officials said the new plan will give parents time to adjust, and it prevents future Jennie Moore Elementary and Laing Middle students from moving twice. Both schools are in temporary sites while new buildings are under construction, so instead of moving students to those spots and again into their new buildings, the rezoning allows for students to move once into the finished new buildings.
“What we’re trying to do is disturb as few neighborhoods and children as we can,” Belk said.
The rezoning will give overcrowded schools some relief, but it won’t eliminate the need for mobile units. The northern part of Mount Pleasant lacks elementary schools, and that’s the area where students outnumber classroom seats. The school district doesn’t have a plan to build a new elementary school in the town through 2016, and the next one to come online likely would be in 2018 in the Carolina Park community.
“We’re going to need a new school built as soon as we can,” said associate superintendent Terri Nichols, who oversees elementary schools. “If they keep building (new homes), we’re still going to be crowded.”
Shelli Avant has one child at Pinckney Elementary and will have another at Laurel Hill Primary this fall, and she has been working with the Unified Voice of East Cooper Communities on creating better proposals for families.
The new proposal adheres to principles such as disrupting as few children as possible and keeping communities together, even those that are split by highways.
“But this is a short-term solution, and unless they think in longer terms, they’re not fully solving the problem,” she said. “We’ve made significant progress toward making better sense of this current rezoning, but we’ll fall on our face if we don’t pressure the board to add more seats.”
District officials suggested last month three possible options for creating more seats for students: increasing the capacity for the new Laing and Jennie Moore buildings to 1,200 students each, creating a new magnet school in the former Whitesides Elementary building, and allowing East Cooper Montessori Charter to expand by using the former Laing building.
Belk said the constituent board suggested using the former Laing and Whitesides buildings to add capacity, but it wasn’t involved in the charter school proposal. That space is needed for only Mount Pleasant residents, and the charter school serves students from across the county.
“That was the biggest shock and we’re not in agreement with that,” Belk said.
Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or 937-5546.
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