Mount Pleasant needs more schools, just not at Sullivan’s Island’s expense

Elizabeth Moffly says she has nothing against Sullivan’s Island.

She’s just a big fan of math — and the numbers here don’t add up.

Last week, Moffly was the lone member of the Charleston County School Board to vote against the contract to build the new Sullivan’s Island Elementary School.

Moffly wanted to take the money for that school and build a new one in north Mount Pleasant, where everybody and their brother — not to mention their kids — are moving.

The rest of the board disagreed.

They argued that the district had already spent $3 million on the project and had made a promise to Sullivan’s Island.

And, truth be told, getting a new school on Sullivan’s has been a bear, what with the dissent on the island.

No one wanted this to drag out any more. So the board did right to honor its commitment.

But Moffly makes a very good point.

Mount Pleasant needs more schools — and fast.

One high school?

The school district has been meticulous in choosing its building projects in Mount Pleasant.

District officials talk with town leaders and have used a panel of citizens to rank priorities.

They’ve done it that way for years.

In the past decade or so, they’ve opened Laurel Hill Primary and Pinckney Elementary up at Park West. There aren’t any empty seats.

But a new elementary, in the coming Carolina Park development, probably won’t open until 2018.

Not soon enough, Moffly says.

Sullivan’s Island Elementary has 268 kids in its attendance zone; the north end of Mount Pleasant has 2,200.

“I love Sullivan’s Island, but this is about taking care of our greatest needs with limited resources,” she says.

It is hard to argue with that.

Some board members agree that in hindsight they might have done things differently. Moffly says they’ve known this was coming since 2005, and had time to adjust.

But they didn’t.

The district says it has plans to handle the overflow. Among other things, they will add 300 slots at Jennie Moore Elementary and open a new 500-student magnet school at the old Whitesides Elementary, which Sullivan’s Island Elementary is using until its new building is ready next year.

Moffly says that will just lead to more busing, and kids ought to stay in their neighborhoods.

Given the grousing about changing zoning lines, you have to figure a lot of Mount Pleasant parents would agree.

Especially since the fourth-largest city in the state has only one high school.

Victims of success

Mount Pleasant Mayor Billy Swails takes the long view of this.

Sure, his town needs more schools — but they have gotten a lot from the district in recent years.

It’s hard to begrudge Sullivan’s Island its elementary school.

“I can’t complain about our schools,” Swails says. “They are excellent and we have the best principals in the world. Are they crowded? Yes. We need more, but we’ll get ‘em.”

Right now, Moffly is the lone voice on the school board pushing to move faster on Mount Pleasant schools. But some of the others are sympathetic.

In a way, Swails has the problem nailed: Mount Pleasant schools are great, and the district is a victim of its own success.

And while the district has to take care of the entire county, Moffly is right to point out they need to build where the demand is greatest.

That’s just elementary.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com

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