Mount Pleasant constituent school board delays community meeting to discuss new attendance lines for schools
Mount Pleasant families who want to know the new attendance boundaries for elementary and middle schools will have to wait until September.
The District 2 (East Cooper) constituent school board has not released the new school zones it approved at a recent meeting, even though the public is entitled to that information. The board’s chairwoman, Marty Belk, said Friday she would see what she could do to provide those to The Post and Courier.
Belk was reluctant to release the documents because she said the board plans to revisit its decision and likely will make more changes. The new lines are slated to go into effect in the fall of 2015.
“I don’t want to do anything that is not right,” she said. “Let me see how I can get that to you.”
Jay Bender, attorney for the S.C. Press Association, said those maps are a public record, and they became public information when they were created. The state Freedom of Information Act doesn’t have an exemption for drafts, and he said it’s more important for the public to have access to the preliminary maps, rather than the final version, so they can have input.
The constituent school board initially planned to share that information with the community this month, but it postponed that gathering until September. The board received hundreds of emails and letters from parents in a handful of neighborhoods after its decision, and the board wants to look at the issue further, Belk said.
Still, the delay didn’t sit well with some. The constituent school board has been working on rezoning plans for more than two years, and parent and neighborhood representatives have been involved in those efforts this spring. Rezoning is needed because a handful of schools, particularly those in the Park West neighborhood, are over-capacity.
“What I really want is the constituent board to make a decision, give us the logic, and stand behind it,” said Howard Chalmers, a parent who is chairman of the Laurel Hill Primary School Improvement Council and served on the Community Rezoning Advisory Team. “The overcrowding and big classes — it just gets worse with every delay in the decision.”
Belk said she didn’t want to have a community meeting during the summer months when many families take a vacation, and members of the constituent school board weren’t scheduled to meet in July.
“Since we have two years before this becomes ‘official,’ there is time to delay two months,” Belk wrote in a letter to the parent and neighborhood representatives giving input into the process.
Another issue that could affect the proposed lines was news that the Charleston County School Board might delay building Laing Middle or not expanding its capacity by 300 students, Belk said. That expanded new building opening in 2015 is a key component of the rezoning proposal, and she said she wanted to find out what the district would do about that.
Terri Nichols, associate superintendent who oversees elementary schools, said parents are encouraged to reach out to their neighborhood and school representatives before the September meeting to give input. Those representatives are supposed to provide feedback on their concerns, and the community meeting in September is intended to share the final decision, she said.
“(The lines) will be approved and done,” Nichols said.
Belk said the board wants to give the community the most palatable option.
“I’ve never dealt with anything like this in my life,” she said “It doesn’t seem like I can please anyone. We’re doing the best we can do.”
Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or 937-5546.