Committee decides on attendance zone plan to take to community

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comJanuary 30, 2014 

  • Meeting schedule

    The Student Services Committee voted to take Plan X to the community in a series of town hall meetings around the district. The schedule for the meetings is:

    • Hilton Head Island High School - from 6 to 8 p.m. on Feb. 3.
    • Bluffton High School - from 6 to 8 p.m. on Feb. 10.
    • Whale Branch Early College High School - from 6 to 8 p.m. to Feb. 24.
    • Beaufort High School - from 6 to 8 p.m. on Feb. 25.
    • Battery Creek High School - from 6 to 8 p.m. on March 3.

    The Plans

    • Plan A: Moves Moss Creek, Old South and The Gatherings communities' students to Bluffton schools. It also feeds Mossy Oaks and Port Royal elementary schools and Beaufort Middle School students to Battery Creek High School rather than Beaufort High.
    • Plan B: Keeps Mossy Oaks and Port Royal elementary schools feeding into Beaufort High.
    • Plan C: Keeps Moss Creek, Old South and The Gatherings communities' students attending Hilton Head Island schools.
    • Plan D: Uses Buckwalter Parkway as a guideline to divide the zones for the two Bluffton high schools. Moss Creek, Old South and The Gatherings students would attend Bluffton schools.
    • Plan E: Adjusts attendance zones between Battery Creek High School and Whale Branch Early College High School.

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When it comes to plans for new attendance zones, county school superintendent Jeffrey Moss apparently saved the best for last.

The Student Services Committee voted Thursday night to approve a new option -- Plan X, which Moss said is a combination of the several plans already presented at previous meetings -- to take to the community.

"This plan sort of incorporates a lot of the conversations I've heard around the table and I hope it is close to a plan we might be able to present to the community with a few small tweaks," Moss said after the presentation.

Plan X, the sixth presented, includes changes to zones in both northern and southern Beaufort County.

NORTHERN BEAUFORT COUNTY

Mossy Oaks and Port Royal elementary school students will continue to feed in to Beaufort High School. In several previous options, those schools fed in to Battery Creek High School.

During the public comment period, several Beaufort High teachers and parents expressed concern that changing the zones could hurt some programs at the school.

While the new option keeps Beaufort High at an optimum capacity -- 82 percent -- Battery Creek High will remain under capacity at 54 percent. However, Moss said he hopes to create a choice academic program at Battery Creek that will attract more students.

A second change will create an elementary attendance zone for Robert Smalls Middle School, which will transition to a pre-kindergarten through eighth grade school at the start of next year. That zone pulls some students from the Broad River and Beaufort elementary school zones.

The changes would go in to affect at the start of next school year.

Board chair Bill Evans, who represents parts of Beaufort, said he is pleased with the plan.

"Parents in those areas should be happy with this because it does what they want and doesn't drastically change things," he said. "I think the dynamic people have to understand is that as long as we're growing, there are going to be changes and shifts."

SOUTHERN BEAUFORT COUNTY

One of the main changes under Plan X sends students from Moss Creek, Old South and The Gatherings communities -- who currently attend Hilton Head schools -- to Bluffton schools.

Many parents from the Moss Creek area oppose that move. Several said they know Hilton Head schools are crowded but feel there should be a solution that allows their students to stay in them.

Committee co-chair Evva Anderson said the board understands parent concerns, but that the growing student numbers on Hilton Head don't leave the district much choice.

Plan X also includes zones for the new elementary and high schools being built in Bluffton to alleviate crowding. Creating zones for those schools means all the zones in Bluffton will change.

The plan uses Buckwalter Parkway as a guideline to divide the zones for the two high schools.

The zone for the elementary school pulls students from the current Pritchardville, Okatie and Bluffton elementary school zones.

Those changes would go into affect at the start of the 2015-16 school year when the new schools are expected to open.

The school board will now take Plan X to the community during a series of five meetings around the district to gather feedback and hear concerns.

Anderson stressed the plan is not final, and said there are likely be some tweaking and fine-tuning after the meetings.

"We have high hopes this will satisfy as many parents as possible," Anderson said. "We are just striving to draw the zones so that we can stop shifting children around so frequently and make some room for growth and choice programs."

Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

Related content:


Final zoning presentation, shown Jan. 30, 2014

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