Hanahan - With construction of the new elementary school on indefinite hold, residents of the area want to help the district find a location for the school, even if they have to do it without the district's blessings.
"We are anxious to work with the district, and the public has been begging for a committee, but they've been told there's not going to be one," said Hanahan City administrator Johnny Cribb.
So Mayor Minnie Newman-Caldwell decided to form one through the city.
"From my perspective, this is about our children and the future of Hanahan," Newman-Caldwell said. "This is our only chance to have a new school, and I just believe that the citizens should have a voice in it. The heart of our community is in our schools."
Newman-Caldwell tapped Pat Eckstine, a member of Hanahan's planning commission, to head a committee of 30 residents representing neighborhoods throughout the city. A steering committee will meet this week to map the group's plan, and then it will hold public meetings after that, Eckstine said.
Eckstine has asked the school district to form a committee similar to the group of Cainhoy and Daniel Island residents that met for two months last fall to study site options and configurations for what will be Philip Simmons elementary and middle schools. In February, the school board voted to accept the committee's recommendation to build the K-8 school on Clements Ferry Road near the new high school.
"Not to give residents a chance, not to allow those discussions to take place, does a disservice to every parent, every resident," said Eckstine, a retiree who is also a member of the homeowners association at The Reserve at Foster Creek, which is currently not zoned for Hanahan schools, another hot button issue. "The school district set a precedent" with the Clements Ferry committee, she said.
Both the Clements Ferry and Hanahan schools are part of the district's $198 million program to build five new schools and renovate 29 others.
The Clements Ferry committee played an invaluable role, Thompson said, and "though a similar committee could potentially be an important part of the overall process for the Tanner-Foster Creek project, establishing such an entity at this time is premature and may not be required, given the limited options in the area."
Thompson said a difference is that in the first situation, three communities - Daniel Island, Cainhoy, and the Clements Ferry Road area - were charged with making a recommendation regarding the location of the school, but in Hanahan, there are not any land options.
"When we can secure a viable option, we will share it with and ask for feedback from the community," he said.
Eckstine, who has studied the videos and minutes from the other committee's meetings, disagrees that the situations are different.
"All of the concerns and questions, circumstances, etc., are similar if not in most cases exactly the same," she said. "The only difference we see is that we are 18,000 residents in an almost completely developed community. ... They are about 13,000 residents total with the availability of land for two schools in a massive undeveloped land area."
The district paid retired Beaufort County Superintendent Herman Gaither $4,124 to oversee the Daniel Island-Cainhoy committee.
Eckstine cited Gaither's comments at the Feb. 4 school board meeting, when he said, "it is so much more fruitful when you bring the people who are going to be concerned with your decisions into the process."
"We are only asking for the same opportunity," she said.
The district has been searching for a site in the Tanner Plantation area for more than a year. After rejecting a couple of other sites, it settled on a 12-acre site near Foster Creek Road. Hanahan City Council denied the district's rezoning request and the district was appealed, but dropped the appeal when the landowner pulled out of the sale.
At the time, the district issued a statement that the city's "unwillingness to rezone the Bowen Tract in December of 2013 has delayed the scheduled August of 2015 opening of the Tanner/Foster Creek area school indefinitely."
The city owns two 20-plus acre tracts on Williams Lane and city officials have said they would support building a school on one of those and a park on the other.
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.
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