A shuttered Hollywood elementary school is set to reopen next school year as a magnet school that will offer a gifted and talented curriculum aimed at engaging students in critical thinking and problem-solving.
The Charleston County School District is accepting applications for the 2015-16 school year for the new C.C. Blaney Center for Advanced Learning. Students applying to the new school will be accepted based on their performance on an admissions test assessing students’ potential for gifted and talented learning.
C.C. Blaney Elementary closed for the 2014-15 school year after the Charleston County School Board accepted a community task force’s recommendation that looked at how to deal with declining school enrollment in the Hollywood area. The new school will be a constituent magnet school, meaning students in the Hollywood, Ravenel and Edisto areas will get first preference before slots are opened up to students from other areas of the county such as Johns or James islands.
The idea behind the new school, said Associate Superintendent James Winbush, is to improve school choice in that area of the county to draw students back to their area schools.
According to 2012 attendance data, of the 1,929 students who lived in the Hollywood area, 745, or 38 percent, attended schools outside the attendance zone.
Last year, C.C. Blaney, which served students in grades K-6, had an enrollment of fewer than 200 students.
“We have a lot more kids than people think out there,” Winbush said. “Why should they bypass the schools that are already out there? If we give (parents) what they want, if we give them choice, there’s no reason they shouldn’t attend C.C. Blaney Advanced Learning Center if their child qualifies.”
C.C. Blaney Principal Mary Reynolds said that with a gifted and talented curriculum students will have more hands-on learning that focuses on solving problems as a group.
“It’s not doing 50 problems of long division,” Reynolds said. “It’s working on problems and figuring out to solve the problem and the different ways to get the answer.”
As an example, Reynolds said the new school will partner with the College of Charleston’s Dixie Plantation, which is also located in Hollywood, to learn about gardening.
The school will offer Spanish to all grades, as well as the option to earn up to six high school credits through advanced courses.
As part of its reopening, Reynolds said, the school will undergo a renovation to include a new roof, carpets and furniture.
Reynolds said the school will open for the 2015-16 school year serving grades K-3. It will eventually serve students through the eighth grade, adding one grade per year.
Lindsey Blackmon, a teacher who offers gifted and talented programs for the three elementary schools in Hollywood, said the difference in the new magnet school is that it will provide a comprehensive, all-day gifted and talented curriculum for students instead of the two or three hours offered at neighborhood elementary schools.
“I think it would be powerful to reach that percentage of students in the area and allow them an environment to excel,” Blackmon said.
“I think if they are in an environment where they are consistently and constantly stimulated it will continue to push and improve their attitude toward learning.”
Reynolds said students in grades K-2 at the three Hollywood-area elementary schools, including Minnie Hughes, Jane Edwards and Ellington, have already been tested to see if they qualify for the new school. The district is also accepting applications from students outside those schools, as well as students who will be entering kindergarten in the fall.
Admissions testing will continue through March, Reynolds said, and acceptance letters should be mailed out by the end of April. Applications to C.C. Blaney Center for Advanced Learning can be found at www.ccsdschools.com. For more information on the new school parents can call 889-4061.