School attendance zones recommendation still unmade

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comMarch 19, 2014 

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IPBGSARAH

Redrawing districtwide attendance zones has been no easy pill for some Beaufort County parents to swallow.

After Wednesday night's Student Services Committee meeting, it's clear school board members find it no easier to take.

After five town hall meetings to hear concerns from the community and two committee meetings to discuss that feedback, the group still could not agree on a plan to recommend to the full board.

"My hope was that we would have come to a point of recommendation after these meetings," committee co-chair Evva Anderson said. "But I also don't feel comfortable pushing something forward without the full support of the committee."

Anderson said she remains confident the board can make a decision by its April 1 deadline. There are just a few more tough decisions that need to be nailed down, she said.

Three unanswered questions became apparent Wednesday night:

  • Where will Moss Creek, Old South, Buckingham Landing and The Gatherings students be zoned? Will they remain in Hilton Head Island schools or be moved to Bluffton facilities?

  • Will the zone for Coosa Elementary School be adjusted to allow students within a one-mile radius of the building to attend school there? Or will they be sent to Lady's Island Elementary School, as the proposed zones suggest?

  • What will the "grandfathering" policy for students zoned to new schools be? Will they be allowed to stay until a natural transition -- such as the breaks between elementary, middle and high school? Or will they stay in their old school only if they've reached the highest grade in the building?

  • "The question that came to us is if we are ready to make a recommendation to the full board, and I am saying no," said board member Laura Bush. "I'm not prepared or ready to come forward with a recommendation with this plan because I still feel we have some things to discuss and questions to answer."

    However, some board members feel the proposed attendance zones have been discussed enough.

    Board member Earl Campbell made a motion Wednesday to recommend superintendent Jeff Moss' proposed plan. But when his motion drew no support, Campbell withdrew it.

    "We have discussed this long enough, we have to make a decision," he said. "I don't see anything else we need to discuss. We either need to make some changes and redraw some lines or approve the proposal."

    Many parents agree although fewer and fewer of them have been coming to recent meetings.

    "The decisions have to be made and the change has to be done," Bluffton parent Heidi Hanson said. "Either it's now or we are going to be back here again in a year."

    The board has one more meeting before its April deadline, having set aside several hours during a two-day work session March 28-29.

    That time should be enough to iron out final decisions, Anderson said.

    "It's time we buck up and make those tough decisions," she said. "We keep going around and around on these discussions, but it will never be perfect so we just need to do what is best for the future of the district and students."

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

    Related content:

    Coosa Elementary parents question proposed attendance zone changes, February 25, 2014

    No perfect plan exists for new school zones: Parents and the Beaufort County School District must be willing to compromise on redistricting, March 1, 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

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