Charleston County school leaders have trimmed down their budget requests for the upcoming school year, and they recommended delaying by one year a new magnet school for Mount Pleasant.
The district estimated the advanced studies magnet school for East Cooper students would cost about $1.6 million, and officials have suggested postponing its opening until the 2015-16 school year, in part because of a lack of money.
"The criteria we used in making recommendations was which programs would have the most direct and immediate impact on Vision 2016," said School Superintendent Nancy McGinley.
The district has proposed funding a principal position for the new school in 2014-15, and that employee would develop details of the new school's program.
The district expects its general operating budget revenues to be $389.8 million for the upcoming school year, but the county school board already has committed to spending at least $395 million, and that doesn't cover all of the district's spending proposals. It's not unusual to see that kind of gap in expenditures and revenues at this early stage in the budget process, and those numbers will continue to change.
School board members told district administrators to prioritize their spending proposal for the 2014-15 school year, and officials presented a revised plan on Wednesday during a board workshop.
Putting the Mount Pleasant magnet school on hold for the 2014-15 school year was part of the district's plan to cut spending, and officials said they made that suggestion for a few reasons. The District 2 (Mount Pleasant) constituent school board's new rezoning plans will take effect in fall 2015, so opening a new school then would be good timing, said Terri Nichols, an associate superintendent who oversees elementary schools. It's also late to plan to open a new school this fall when the county school board still hasn't signed off on it, she said.
Finally, enrollment projections for Laurel Hill Primary and Pinckney Elementary, two of the district's fastest growing schools, are expected to hold steady this fall, and one of the reasons the magnet school was proposed was to alleviate overcrowding in that area, she said.
The three school board members who attended the workshop - Chairwoman Cindy Bohn Coats, member Craig Ascue and member Todd Garrett - didn't express any objections to the district's recommendation, but it will be up to the full board to decide what to do. Garrett said he had some concerns about a test-based admissions process for the new school, and Ascue agreed. McGinley said officials could come back to the board with more information.
"This would give us time to come back with details," McGinley said.
The Mount Pleasant magnet school was one of a number of budget requests officials have changed in the past few weeks. Officials had suggested spending roughly $4 million to change bus transportation for six middle schools that have late start and dismissal times, but that is on hold while they do a broader study on how to potentially restructure bus transportation.
A $1.9 million proposal to create a Community High School, which would be an alternative school for students at risk for dropping out, has been scaled back to a $500,000 request. The school would be housed at the former Charlestowne Academy building in North Charleston, and it would offer adult education, the Summit program and direct instruction.
"We believe we can use many existing resources to get this program started," McGinley said. "This is my highest non-personnel priority. This is a second chance for students who aren't making it in a traditional high school."
District staff also reduced spending for the Renaissance School project, which the district spent more than $1 million to offer this school year at four schools. The project involved staff members reapplying for their jobs and adding more training days for those who were rehired.
Officials had asked to add three new schools to that project this fall, but now they're asking for just one additional school - Chicora Elementary - as well as 10 extra training days for teachers. Renaissance schools had 20 extra training days this year.
The school board is expected to discuss the budget at its Monday meeting.
Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or (843) 937-5546.
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