Marching Burke students, supporters fight for school, protest charter idea

Burke students demonstrated outside the Charleston County School District's headquarters Tuesday in protest of any plans to convert the school to a charter school. Amanda Kerr/Staff

Burke Middle-High School students descended on the headquarters of the Charleston County School District on Tuesday to protest any plans to transition their school to a charter school.

Nearly 100 students, alumni, parents and supporters marched from America Street to Calhoun Street in support of downtown Charleston’s only traditional public high school.

Pastor Thomas Dixon, whose group The Coalition — People United To Take Back Our Community was among several that helped organize the students, told the high-schoolers that Tuesday’s event was about giving them a voice. Dixon said in an interview that his organization is making a push to put pressure on the school board to be more responsive to the community.

“What we have here is we have a union between community groups, activists and organizers, but more importantly we have our youth standing up,” he said of Tuesday’s march for Burke.

Interest in Burke’s future has been growing as the Charleston County School District moves forward with the relocation of the technology program Lowcountry Tech Academy to the Burke campus. A state charter school group also has been investigating whether converting Burke to a charter school is an option.

The protest comes a week after a community meeting to brainstorm ways to improve the school. The goal among community organizers is to develop a proposal to submit to school officials.

During Tuesday’s board meeting, students and alumni defended their alma mater. Student Allen Rouse said he’s concerned about all of the rumors regarding the various plans that could impact Burke. “My question is, why doesn’t the school know what’s going on,” the 10th-grader asked of the board.

Rouse said Burke already offers a strong curriculum with options to take Advanced Placement courses, as well as dual-credit courses through Trident Technical College.

“I don’t see what’s the problem with the curriculum,” he said.

Acting Superintendent Michael Bobby said Tuesday the district’s desire is to have a “premier comprehensive high school” at Burke, not a charter school. No proposals from other groups to convert Burke to a charter school have been filed with the district.