MOUNT PLEASANT – If crowd size was any indication of parents’ dissatisfaction, then the vast majority of parents have come to terms with the new elementary and middle school rezoning plan that will take effect in the fall of 2015.
On the web
The proposed maps can be viewed on Charleston County School District’s website, www.ccsdschools.com. Click on the “constituent boards” link on the left-hand side of the page, then click “District 2.” The district’s website also has information sheets that describe the proposed changes for schools and neighborhoods.
Fewer than 50 parents attended a Wednesday night community meeting about the changing attendance lines, which was in stark contrast to the more than 400 who showed up more than a year ago at a similar meeting where the initial proposal was unveiled.
The District 2 (East Cooper) constituent school board backed off of that plan, regrouped and worked with parent and neighborhood representatives to come up with better options. Chairwoman Marty Belk said those efforts were worth it.
“It’s more acceptable now,” she said. “We had suggestions, and we tried to follow those.”
School officials have said rezoning is necessary to relieve overcrowded schools and better balance enrollment among schools. The tone of this meeting was far more civil compared to last year as officials explained how and why they made the decisions for each school.
The constituent school board, which is tasked with drawing school’s attendance lines, followed five priorities in creating the new zones, such as balancing socio-economic distribution of students, creating effective traffic patterns, and keeping neighborhoods together that feed into the same schools.
“It has been an ongoing, arduous task,” Belk said. “We have done the best we can do. These (lines) are not set in stone, but right now, this is the best plan we can come up with.”
School officials repeatedly have made the point that every school in Mount Pleasant is rated “excellent,” and children would receive an excellent education no matter where they are enrolled. District 2 constituent school board Vice Chairman Dominique Milton asked every attendee at Wednesday night’s meeting to stand up and say that to one another. Some did so willingly.
Others who were present disagreed with that perspective, with one parent telling the board during the presentation, “It doesn’t sound like you have the best interest of our children in mind.”
Others said there are varying degrees of excellence among the community’s schools, and they pointed to test scores as proof. Traci Smith’s son attends Park West neighborhood schools but would be rezoned to Jennie Moore Elementary and Laing Middle.
“They can say what they want to all day long, but I don’t think (Laing) is as good as Cario Middle,” she said.
She said she planned to look at what kind of options her family would have, such as transferring elsewhere or applying to a magnet school such as School of the Arts. Mount Pleasant should’ve been thinking about overcrowding when it was issuing building permits, not when students are flooding schools, she said.
“They didn’t plan for the future, and now it’s our kids suffering for it,” she said.
Parent Melanie Powell said her children don’t go to their neighborhood schools, which are Whitesides Elementary and Laing Middle, and she was hoping the rezoning would switch them to their current schools, Mount Pleasant Academy and Moultrie Middle.
That didn’t happen, and her neighborhood’s attendance zones didn’t change. She learned, however, that her children, as well as all others who made transfer requests, will have to reapply in 2015 to be able to stay at the schools where they transferred.
That means Powell’s children aren’t guaranteed spots in their current schools, and she said that was frustrating.
“We feel like we have to move,” she said. “We love where we live … but we are going to move.”
Milton said during the meeting that it wouldn’t be fair for parents to not have to reapply, and all applications will be considered.
Still, some parents weren’t upset about the changes and said they understood rezoning needed to happen. Parent Shari Sebuck’s children are zoned for Park West neighborhood schools, but she transferred them to Jennie Moore Elementary and Laing Middle. The rezoning won’t affect her neighborhood attendance zones, but she said she’d like to keep her children enrolled in their current schools.
“I just hope we are able to move beyond the emotion,” she said. “People are going to be put out, no matter what. That’s just the way it goes. How we handle it and model it for our kids – that’s the most important thing.”
Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or (843) 937-5546.