Mt. P. residents question second high school plan

As a Mount Pleasant native and Wando High alumna, Angela Payton-Harmon was initially skeptical about the idea of having a second high school in the town.

But after learning more about a new plan for a second high school during a meeting Wednesday, Payton-Harmon was feeling more supportive of the idea.

More than 30 people attended the meeting at Cario Middle School where Kate Darby, chairwoman of the Charleston County School District's work group committee, presented the plan.

The recommendation calls for a second high school to open at the old Wando campus on Mathis Ferry Road for the 2019-2020 school year. The school district estimates a new school would cost around $75 million. Darby said the school would likely open with around 1,200 students and capacity for 2,000.

The current Wando High School, which opened in 2004 off Highway 17 in northern Mount Pleasant, , was built for 3,000 students but currently has around 3,700. The school is currently the largest high school in the state and at any given time there are 500 to 600 students in portable classrooms. By 2019 enrollment at the school could reach 4,171 students.

A new high school would be funded through an extension of the 1 percent sales tax voters approved in 2010. The district needs approval from the legislature to hold a referendum in November to extend the tax. It is currently set to expire in 2016.

Reaction to the proposal for a second high school was mixed. Some parents worried about whether students at the second high school would be excluded from the diverse courses offered at Wando. Others wondered whether the second high school should be bigger.

Michael Green, who recently moved to Mount Pleasant and has a child in elementary school, said he's not concerned about the size of Wando as long as class sizes are "within reason." What's important, he said, is the quality of the education.

Payton-Harmon thinks a second high school should have open enrollment rather than attendance zones, noting that a recent rezoning for elementary and middle schools was controversial.

A second meeting on the proposal will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday at Moultrie Middle School.