Mount Pleasant has an amazingly reasonable school wish list - especially seeing as how it is the 9th-fastest growing city in the country.
They definitely have to have a new elementary school on the north end of town. Eventually they will need a new middle school.
And, oh yeah, they could use a new high school - since they only have ONE, and Wando High serves 80,000 people.
The Charleston County School District received those requests this week from the town's Blue Ribbon Committee on schools which, as it turns out, is completely different from the Pabst Blue Ribbon Committee.
This modest report sparked a pretty testy email exchange among school board members, some of whom have their own ideas about what the district needs to do with money it doesn't have yet.
School Board member Chris Collins was most adamant about one thing.
"Mt. Pleasant should not be included in the building plan," Collins wrote. "We have spent too much money on Wando already."
In fact, he says the county has spent so much money on Wando, the doors to Mount Pleasant's one and only high school should be opened to students from all over the county.
Which is just what Wando needs - more kids.
Spread the wealth?
Kate Darby, who was the chairwoman of the Mount Pleasant committee, did not expect that sort of response.
"I'm flabbergasted that someone on the board would say something like that," Darby says.
The folks in Mount Pleasant are not greedy. They know every part of the county has needs. The committee even studied district spending to make sure they hadn't already gotten too much.
The district, as you might expect, diplomatically spreads the wealth fairly evenly.
School board member Elizabeth Moffly - who was pushing for a second Mount Pleasant high school before it was fashionable - told Collins he was unreasonable.
She pointed out that North Charleston's six high schools combined don't have as many kids as good ol' Sardine High.
Which is true.
A new high school for Mount Pleasant isn't hoarding, or playing favorites, she says. It's focusing on where the needs are.
And if the district doesn't want to do that, well.
"I think it's time to start talking about de-consolidating," Moffly says. "Charleston County is getting too big for its britches."
Nothing quells Mount Pleasant hate like the thoughts of East Cooper pulling out of the county-wide district.
Uh, Mount Pleasant votes
Collins says he does not oppose a new Mount Pleasant high school.
He says it just shouldn't be the priority.
The "new" Wando, which is 10 years old, got put ahead of a lot of other school needs in other parts of the county, he claims, and doesn't think it should happen this time. In his email Collins suggests slapping some paint on the old Wando and "bamb (sic) u got a second high school."
The Mount Pleasant committee concluded that option is not feasible. But Collins says North Charleston deserves new sports stadiums before they build Mount Pleasant yet another new high school.
"Other schools deserve the same revenue Mount Pleasant has been getting," Collins says. "Let them get in line."
In fact, Collins says Lincoln High in McClellanville should get a new high school before Mount Pleasant. Even though Lincoln serves less than 200 students, Collins says it doesn't matter - all kids deserve the same facilities.
That is a noble thought, but it's not going to fly with the school board. As another board member says, "Even my dog knows Mount Pleasant needs a new elementary school and a new high school."
Of course, there's no guarantee the school district can pay for any of this. To continue its building program, the district needs legislative approval to put a referendum for a 1-percent sales tax on the November ballot. And that's not happened yet.
And if it does, school board members say they will evaluate needs in every corner of the county - even Mount Pleasant.
"I'd prefer to figure out what the people want us to do before we start telling them what we're going to do," School Board Chairwoman Cindy Bohn Coats says.
No matter what they hear, you can bet the board will continue to spread the wealth. It's the right thing to do.
But they also can't ignore real needs, which are as bad in East Cooper as they are anywhere.
Then there's this political gut check: Try getting a sales tax referendum for school building projects approved without the support of Mount Pleasant.
Or, for that matter, try getting re-elected to the school board after you've just dissed the 9th-fastest growing city in the country.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org
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