A plan to create a standalone middle school on the Burke campus in downtown Charleston is one step closer to reality.
The Charleston County school board reached a consensus to implement a standalone middle school in the 2015-2016 school year during a special meeting Tuesday. The school, which would provide students an independent middle school experience, would be located in the Rhett building on the Burke campus, according to the plan.
Students from Mitchell and Memminger elementaries would attend the school. The board agreed that Sanders-Clyde Creative Arts School would continue serving grades K-8 but that parents could choose to transfer their children to the new middle school. Burke Middle High School currently serves grades 7-12.
The board will take a final vote on the plan at its next regular meeting May 12.
The plan follows nearly two years of discussion regarding middle school education for downtown schools. A school district task force previously recommended the district implement a rigorous, advanced academic curriculum. A second task force earlier this year recommended a standalone middle school for implementation of the new curriculum. The group's plan included moving sixth grade students to Burke's campus in the 2014-2015 school year with full implementation of a middle school in the 2015-2016 school year.
The school board members decided not to move sixth graders to the Burke campus in the fall to allow the district time to hire staff and implement plans for the middle school.
Charleston County School Superintendent Nancy McGinley, who participated in the meeting via conference call, supported the standalone school. McGinley said that one of the factors driving the need for a separate school is expected growth among middle school age students downtown in the next three years that could pose challenges in terms of limited classroom space and increased class sizes.
Several community members who attended Tuesday's meeting supported the board's plan.
"It's about making sure we have the best schools downtown," said Arthur Lawrence, a Burke High alumnus and co-founder of Friends of Burke.