OCR approves Shell Point closure, fifth-grade move to Robert Smalls

rheaton@beaufortgazette.comFebruary 7, 2012 

  • Agreed to participate in a proposed tax increment financing district for the Port of Port Royal. The district's contribution will be capped at $300,000 annually and will not include money collected from taxes on owner-occupied homes. The board voted 10-0 in favor of the resolution. Steven Morello was not present for that vote.

  • Approved Riverview Charter School's student recruitment plan. The board approved the plan 10-1; Morello voted no.

  • Approved changes to the appeal process of suspensions and expulsions on a 9-1-1 vote. Board member Julie Bell voted no; Morello abstained.

  • Unanimously accepted a $2,500 donation from Hargray to the Hilton Head Island High School boys golf team.

  • Get breaking news, story updates and interesting reflections on Lowcountry schools by following Homeroom on Twitter.

The decision to close Shell Point Elementary School is now final.

The federal Office for Civil Rights approved the closure in a letter Monday. Several other Beaufort County Board of Education decisions related to student attendance areas, including the shift of fifth-graders to Robert Smalls Middle School next year, were also approved.

Shell Point parents had long opposed the Aug. 12 decision to shutter their school. Cathy Emmert, who has two children at the school, said OCR's ruling represented parents' "last hope" for saving Shell Point.

"It's still like an open wound," she said. "You won't really feel the full effects until the last day of this school year and the first day of school next year."

Emmert said Shell Point parents had contacted OCR a few weeks ago and asked the office to consider their concerns.

In their letter to OCR, parents worried that reassigning students to the Whale Branch cluster and shuffling students among schools within the Battery Creek cluster was negatively impacting the racial balance of Battery Creek cluster schools.

Emmert said they had not heard back from OCR.

Parents met at Shell Point Elementary Jan. 30 to discuss where their children would attend school next year. Most of the students are slated to attend Broad River Elementary.

OCR also approved:

  • reassigning students from the Mink Point Boulevard neighborhoods to Beaufort Elementary for grades pre-kindergarten through four, Robert Smalls Middle School for grades five through eight and Battery Creek High School for grades nine through twelve, effective next school year.

  • reassigning students from the Laurel Bay area to Whale Branch Elementary and Middle schools, effective next school year

  • reassigning students in the Rose Hill neighborhood from Okatie Elementary to Bluffton Elementary, effective in the 2013-14 school year

  • reassigning students in the Old Carolina neighborhood and students who live off Buck Island Road south of Bluffton Parkway from Red Cedar Elementary to Bluffton Elementary, effective 2013-14

  • the transition of Bluffton and H.E. McCracken Middle schools to grades six through eight, likely effective in 2013-14

  • In its letter, OCR said the decisions were consistent with the district's 40-year-old voluntary desegregation plan.

    Under that plan, the percentage of white and black students in each school must approximate the districtwide percentage.

    If the district does not comply with the plan, annual federal funding totaling about $24 million could be withheld, according to a district news release.

    Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.

    Related content

    1. School board votes to close Shell Point Elementary next year; Aug. 15, 2011
    2. Parents urge OCR to investigate school changes' effect on race; Oct. 17, 2011
    3. Board to move some fifth graders to Robert Smalls Middle School next year; Oct. 4, 2011
    4. Elementary student shift in Bluffton raises parent concerns; Sept. 27, 2011
    5. Port Royal tax district plan would cost school district less; Feb. 1, 2012
    6. School board delays vote on Riverview recruitment plan; Jan. 17, 2012

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