School district must move fast to draw lines

info@islandpacket.comJanuary 4, 2014 

The Beaufort County School District has much work to do before the new school year gets underway. It needs to make the most of every moment.

District leaders must approve new attendance lines for schools, sign off on school choice programs and provide parents with rules for sending their students to out-of-zone schools.

It's a mammoth undertaking and will consume much of the eight months before the new school year gets begins.

We encourage the district to get busy -- and for parents and community members to get involved in the process. Attendance lines are likely to remain in place for years. Now is the only time for the community to give input.

The school board's Student Service Committee will meet at 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 13, 23 and 30 at Okatie Elementary School to discuss plans. The meetings are open to the public. Also, the district will hold a meeting in each of the five school clusters during February to get more community input. Stay tuned for details.

The school board has already signed off on a list of parameters to guide the district's redrawing process, including ensuring that students who live in the same neighborhood all go to the same school; opening schools within 75 to 89 percent capacity to allow for growth; limiting the practice of "grandfathering" so more students go to the schools near their homes; and adhering to its 1970 federal desegregation agreement that requires the percentages of white and black students in each school to approximate the district-wide percentage.

As we've previously said, these guidelines make sense and should be followed as closely as is feasible. Exceptions may have to be made, perhaps for Moss Creek students who currently attend Hilton Head Island schools and whose parents have said they would like their children to remain there.

Also, the district must approve a "school choice" specialty for each school to attract and inspire students to achieve at the highest academic levels. For example, one school may choose a dual language immersion niche and use a variety of techniques throughout the school day and in every class to teach its student two languages. Another school may pick an arts-infused focus where drama, the visual arts and music would be included in lesson plans and class activities.

It's a lot of work to do, but working together -- and quickly -- the community and district can figure it out.

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