The Beaufort County School District kicked off its first of five town hall meetings throughout the county Monday night on Hilton Head Island to gather feedback and hear concerns from parents about the proposed new attendance zones.
Parents from Moss Creek and nearby communities whose children currently attend Hilton Head schools continued their unrelenting opposition to a plan that sends them to Bluffton schools.
"It's not a matter of which schools are better because they both are great," said Melissa Babcock, a parent of three from Moss Creek. "It's a matter of this is a decision we made many years ago to send our kids to these schools and this is our community.
"They keep doing this and it is not solving the problem, they just keep shuffling kids around." In Plan X, the zone option the Student Services Committee has voted to take to the community, students from Moss Creek, Old South, Buckingham Landing and The Gatherings would attend Bluffton schools. There are about 250 students in those communities, according to the school district.
More than 70 parents and students attended the meeting, many of whom acknowledged the growing number of students and crowding in Hilton Head schools. However, all who commented said moving these students will not be the solution.
"Uprooting these families just to make the statistics tip a bit, is it really worth it?" said parent-of-five Billy Gray, a Moss Creek resident. "I don't think the numbers we're giving you are enough when the numbers on Hilton Head need to be looked at as it is for the next 10 years, not just the next two."
Several parents said the district should consider expanding the schools' campus on the island. Others said Beaufort schools needs to tighten its transfer policy to make sure out-of-zone students are fully enrolled in the choice International Baccalaureate program before redrawing lines.
The district also said it is working to verify addresses of families who say they live within the Hilton Head schools zone.
Several parents said that if rezoned, they will move to the island so their children can continue to attend those schools and remain in that community, parent-of-two Madeline Duncan said.
Board chair Bill Evans said they understand parents' concerns and that their feedback weighs heavily on the decisions the board is making. However, he said parents must also consider how crowded of a school environment they want for their children.
"People have every right to want their kids in a stable educational environment, but that is juxtaposed with the problem that we are a growing district," Evans said. "That is a dynamic we can't avoid and I don't know how to get around that."
The district's next town hall meeting will be begin at 6 p.m. Feb. 10 at Bluffton High School.