Middle school age children in downtown Charleston will have access to a standalone middle school starting in the 2015-2016 school year.

The Charleston County school board during a meeting Monday voted 6 to 2 to approve the establishment of a new standalone middle school for grades 6-8 in the Rhett building on the Burke campus downtown. The board discussed the plan in detail during a special meeting last week.

School board members Rev. Chris Collins and Michael Miller voted against the plan because they wanted to start the implementation of the middle school in the 2014-2015 school year, in support of a school district task force recommendation.

School district officials want to develop a separate middle school to provide a more specific middle school curriculum. A separate middle school will also help address expected growth among middle school age students downtown. There is currently no standalone middle school downtown.

The school will begin with the sixth grade with students from Memminger and Mitchell elementary schools. Sanders-Clyde Creative Arts School will continue to serve grades K-8 but parents can choose to transfer their children to the new middle school. As part of the new school's approval, the board asked the school district to establish a project team to implement a timeline, conduct student recruitment and develop a rigorous academic curriculum.

Five people from the downtown area spoke in favor of a standalone middle school, several of whom urged the board to begin implementation of the middle school in the fall by moving the sixth graders from Mitchell and Memminger to the Burke Campus. Burke Middle High School currently serves grades 7-12. No one spoke against the plan.

One parent said she supported a separate middle school so her children could have access to more rigorous courses and earn high school credits as part of their middle school curriculum.

The board voted to delay the new school until the 2015-2016 school year to allow the school district time to hire staff for the school and make improvements to the Rhett building.