MONCKS CORNER — For several months, residents of Daniel Island have launched a campaign to keep kindergarten through eighth grades on the island.
On Tuesday, they won their battle.
“The 15-plus acres was donated to the school district from the Daniel Island Company with the understanding that grades kindergarten through eighth would be served in that facility,” Superintendent Rodney Thompson said at Tuesday’s school board meeting. “For now, we should honor this agreement from the previous administration and former board that accepted property for the current facility on Daniel Island.”
Chester Floyd was the superintendent in 2003 when the land was donated.
Thompson said he was made aware of the agreement by board member Frank Wright, who was not at Tuesday’s meeting, and he also reviewed minutes from 2003 board meetings where the agreement was discussed.
Daniel Island Company President Matt Sloan, reached by phone after the meeting, agreed that the land was donated with that provision.
“I’ve spoken to Dr. Thompson about this and I’m really pleased that they’re going to make efforts to honor that commitment,” he said.
Daniel Island residents, fearful that a new middle school would be built on Clements Ferry Road, have been vocal about keeping the current school as is, addressing the issue at board meetings and on Facebook pages. They want their children to continue to be able to bike and walk to school.
The school’s location has even been named as a driving force in a current effort to move the island, which is in the Charleston city limits, from Berkeley County to Charleston County.
But Thompson has said several times that no decision was made on the school’s location or grade configuration or whether it would be a magnet school.
When asked Tuesday why he did not speak up sooner, Thompson reiterated that.
“As I’ve been saying all along, we just haven’t started the process yet,” he said. “I said, ‘When it’s time we will review the process and move forward.’ We just didn’t have all the information to review back in the summer and we didn’t have the staff to commit to it to review it.”
The agreement does not restrict the board from adjusting the attendance zone for the overcrowded school, he said. It currently draws students from Daniel Island, St. Thomas Island Road area and Clements Ferry Road to Jack Primus Road.
It was built for 1,200 students but currently has 1,369, including 454 who live in the school’s attendance zone but not on Daniel Island, according to the district.
Daniel Island residents have attended most board meetings over the last several months, but none were at Tuesday’s meeting.
Reached afterward, they said were pleased.
“I am grateful to learn of Dr. Thompson’s support of maintaining grades K-8 on Daniel Island,” said Rindy Ryan, who created a Facebook page to support the effort. “I feel our efforts to get the community involved in the discussion about what is truly best for students has made a difference.”
Lawyer Ryan Gilsenan agreed.
“I think this is outstanding and wonderful and welcome news and I would like to commend Superintendent Thompson for looking back at the history and advising the school board to do the right thing,” he said.
Ryan serves on a district-appointed committee of area residents who are studying school locations and Gilsenan is on a committee to recommend a type of school and grade configuration.
Those committees will meet as scheduled starting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Daniel Island School.
They can now “focus on finding a solution to serving the rapidly growing area near and around Clements Ferry Road,” Thompson said.
Gilsenan said he would “continue to serve and do whatever’s necessary on that committee.”
But he said he believes that the news may affect the efforts of residents who want the island to join Charleston County.
“If Berkeley County keeps it’s word, it would probably take a lot of the wind out of the sails of the annexation drive,” he said.
Thompson said he hopes that’s the case.
“This commitment should eliminate any reason for the school district being part of annexation concerns for Daniel Island,” he said.
Some county officials have estimated that Daniel Island provides as much as 20 percent of the county’s tax base.
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.