Coosa Elementary parents question proposed attendance zone changes

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comFebruary 25, 2014 

Matt D'Angelo, of Beaufort, asks Beaufort County School District superintendent Jeffrey Moss a question about school attendance zone wavers during the public comment portion of Tuesday's attendance zone town hall meeting at Beaufort High School.

JAY KARR — Jay Karr Buy Photo

Proposed attendance zone changes have riled parents across Beaufort County.

Those whose children attend schools in the northern part of the county were no exception.

After meetings on Hilton Head Island, in Bluffton and Whale Branch, school board members and district officials traveled to Beaufort High School on Tuesday night to gather feedback from parents.

The main concern was voiced by Coosa Elementary School parents.

"I can hear the car announcements from Coosa because I am that close, but you are telling me that because I am on the wrong side of the street my children are going to have to go to Lady's Island Elementary," said one parent during the meeting.

Under Plan X, about 60 children who currently attend Coosa will move to Lady's Island Elementary School. That includes some families who live within a mile of Coosa.

Such changes are needed because of a board decision in October to return all fifth-graders to elementary school, superintendent Jeff Moss said. Fifth-graders who would normally go to Coosa currently attend Lady's Island Middle School.

However, that move puts Coosa -- currently at 94 percent capacity with pre-kindergarten through fourth grade -- far over capacity without zone changes, Moss said. The zones in Plan X would put the school at 89 percent capacity.

Moss said the district also plans to add several modular units at Coosa next year to create additional room for students who transfer in for academic choice programs. Those programs have yet to be decided.

"I remember those parents who wanted to bring fifth grade back, but you can't do that without changing the school or changing the enrollment," Moss said.

But many parents said the proposed zones are breaking up the community school and creating longer bus rides for students.

"I am one of those parents that wanted fifth grade back and I was so excited," said Coosa parent Sarah Stone. "But I don't remember during those conversations any one saying that if we bring fifth grade back then none of your kids will go to Coosa."

Parents thanked the board for listening in October and asked that they listen again.

Moss and several board members said they were not surprised by the comments but found them helpful and productive.

"There were a lot of very good and relevant comments, and I am a 100 percent confident that the board will be taking them in to consideration," board member Geri Kinton said. "I predict there will be changes to Plan X, but there will still be some families affected because we are making those hard changes so we aren't doing this again next year."

Several Mossy Oaks and Port Royal elementary school and Beaufort High parents voiced support for the plan. Previous options changed zones to feed those students in to Battery Creek High School.

The district has one more town hall meeting to discuss the zones at 6 p.m. on Monday at Battery Creek. The Student Services Committee will then schedule another meeting to discuss all the feedback gathered.

The district hopes to adopt a plan by April 1, Moss said.

The attendance zones for northern Beaufort County would go in to affect next school year.

Those for schools in the southern part of the county will be implemented when two new Bluffton schools open during the 2015-16 school year.

"I said at the beginning of this process, we won't come up with a plan that makes everyone happy," Moss said. "But I think the next student services meeting will really set the tone for what changes are possible"

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

Related content:

Bluffton parents concerned new high school will divide community, February 11, 2014

School board hears concerns from Moss Creek parents at first meeting, February 3, 2014

Committee decides on attendance zone plan to take to community, January 30, 2014

Student Services Committee approves parameters for new attendance zones, October 21, 2013

Beaufort schools move forward on plan to add modular units at Coosa Elementary, January 7, 2014

School board votes to change grade configurations at district schools, October 25, 2013

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