Crowded Bluffton middle schools could mean changes at high school

rheaton@islandpacket.comNovember 16, 2012 

School board executive assistant Robyn Cushingberry, center, talks with incoming District 6 representative Paul Roth on Friday afternoon during a school board work session at the Beaufort County School District Educational Service Center.


  • Scheduled its meetings for 2013. The first meeting, which includes swearing-in of newly elected board members, will be Jan. 2.

  • Heard an update on a plan for the board to go paperless in the coming months. Board members will receive iPads in January, and meetings should be paperless by February.

  • Heard an update on progress at St. Helena Elementary, for which the district has developed an action plan because the school failed federal accountability ratings.

  • Provided a briefing for newly elected board members on school board policies, the role of school improvement councils and district departments.

  • The board will reconvene at 9 a.m. today for the second part of its work session at the district offices at 2900 Mink Point Blvd. in Beaufort. It is expected to discuss the 2013-14 school calendar, policies on board member attendance, community participation and establishing committees.

  • Two Bluffton middle schools are becoming too crowded to maintain their current grade structures, and that could send ninth-graders back to Bluffton High School, district officials said Friday.
  • The current structure -- in which sixth- and seventh-graders attend Bluffton Middle School and eighth- and ninth-graders attend H.E. McCracken Middle School -- won't work next school year. Beaufort County Board of Education members were told at a work session at district offices that the schools are over capacity, and enrollment is expected to grow.

    "This big issue is space," interim superintendent Jackie Rosswurm said. "We have no space at Bluffton Middle or McCracken."

    The grade structure -- different from all other middle schools in the district, which include either fifth-through-eighth grades or sixth-through eighth grades -- was adopted in 2010 to ease overcrowding at Bluffton High School. But that arrangement is set to expire next year -- and even if it weren't, it would no longer be possible, district officials said. "Both (middle schools) are over capacity, and there's no place for mobile units," Rosswurm said.

    The school board approved on Friday the formation of a community committee to research short-term and long-term solutions. Th committee is to report back with some recommendations by March. The board also approved a meeting with school improvement councils of Bluffton schools Nov. 29.

    Though it's not clear whether ninth-graders will move to Bluffton High next year, the school's principal, Mark Dievendorf, said he is planning for that, just in case. A ninth-grade move would mean an influx of about 470 students at the school of 1,124, and more portable classrooms could be needed. The school is at 78 percent capacity currently with only grades 10 through 12.A few board members said it seemed clear more schools would eventually have to be built in the Bluffton area. The school district owns two tracts available and has about $25 million from a 2008 bond issue.

    That money could be used for an elementary school to house kindergarten through eighth grade, district chief of operations Phyllis White said.

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    Related content:

    School board approves Bluffton High rezoning plans, OKs expansion of Bluffton Middle; Jan. 19, 2010

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