School board backs new Sullivan's Island school in 5-3 vote, desite controversy

BY DIETTE COURRÉGÉ

Design plans for the new Sullivan's Island Elementary School building will continue moving forward based on a 500-student school.

The Charleston County School Board reaffirmed Tuesday night its commitment to rebuild Sullivan's Island Elementary for that enrollment despite some residents concerns that that's too big.

The board's 5-3 vote pleased some who feared the controversy could delay or kill efforts to build the new school, and it frustrated others who don't think the size of the new building will fit with the island's character. Board members Elizabeth Kandrac, Elizabeth Moffly and Mary Ann Taylor were opposed to the majority, and board member Ann Oplinger wasn't present.

Board members supporting the 500-student building had different reasons for doing so. Board member Cindy Bohn Coats said she couldn't imagine disregarding the wishes of another group of elected officials. The Sullivan's Island Town Council voted 6-1 Monday night in support of a lease with the district that would enable a 500-student school to be built. Other members said it would be more costly in the long term and nonsensical to build a smaller school.

"If the current school already has over 400 students, we'd be foolish to build it smaller," said board Vice Chairman Chris Collins. "If we build it smaller, we'll put certain kids out."

The board gave its OK earlier in the meeting for Collins to be the new vice chairman after Oplinger, the board's former vice chair, asked to step down.

The size of the new Sullivan's Island Elementary has monopolized the board's attention for the past month, and dozens of residents and school supporters turned out for the board meeting Tuesday.

Board member Taylor said she didn't think the school needed to be 500 students.

"We are talking about a school for Sullivan's Island and yet it's not the people of Sullivan's Island who are being listened to," she said.