Beaufort County school board considers moving 5th-graders -- again

tbarton@beaufortgazette.comJune 25, 2013 

Fifth-grade classes currently held at a Lady's Island middle school might eventually be returned to an elementary-school building, despite a Beaufort County Board of Education vote last week to deny such a shift.

Some school board members say the idea needs further study. Chairman Bill Evans was among those who said they are open to the possibility, but he said the shift should come as a result of a district-wide policy that keeps fifth-graders in elementary schools, consistent with traditional grade alignments.

Some fifth-graders now attend class in middle-school buildings to make better use of the district's classroom space, including Lady's Island, Robert Smalls and Whale Branch middle schools.

The Lady's Island Elementary School Improvement Council voted last month to ask the board to return to the traditional alignment for the 2014-15 school year, but some parents insisted their students be moved out of Lady's Island Intermediate and Middle School this fall.

They were denied when the board voted 7-3 Thursday to keep the current grade configurations.

Meanwhile, St. Helena parents retain the option of having their child stay at St. Helena Elementary for fifth grade or have them sent to Lady's Island Middle.

Coosa and Lady's Island elementary school parents were not given the same choice -- a choice school board member Jim Beckert, who represents areas of Beaufort, say they ought to have.

"Parents need to feel they have a voice in schools to get the resources and academic programs that will most effectively teach their children," Beckert said Monday. "If they feel their children would not be served well in the intermediate school setting, then they should have the option of keeping them in the elementary school setting."

Board members Geri Kinton and JoAnn Orischak joined Beckert in voting to make the change for the coming school year.

District and school officials said it is too late in the year to make such a change. Board policy states changes in student assignment for the following year be made no later than Oct. 1 of the preceding school year.

Evans said the board will consider schools' grade configuration as it develops a strategic plan for the district this summer.

"It's nothing against our middle schools. ... I just ... personally believe children that age belong in an elementary-school environment," Evans said.

The school board restructured Lady's Island Intermediate and Middle School and three nearby elementary schools in 2008 to boost math and science instruction and balance lopsided school enrollments. However, some parents complained their students cannot continue the arts-infused education they received at Lady's Island Elementary.

Beaufort Middle School offers an arts-focused curriculum, but it doesn't begin until sixth grade. Lady's Island Middle School is working with district officials to expand its arts offerings, but they would not be implemented until the 2014-15 school year, principal Mona Lise Dickson said.

The Island Packet is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service