Town officials and other supporters of Port Royal Elementary School on Wednesday implored Beaufort County School District officials not to close the century-old school.
Port Royal Town Council members, who invited school board chairman Fred Washington to their meeting to hear their concerns, asked why any schools have to be closed, defended Port Royal Elementary as a high-performing school with a high level of community involvement and decried a plan that could bus the town's children elsewhere.
A task force that is identifying schools that might be closed or consolidated to save money has put the town's elementary school in the closure crosshairs.
Councilwoman Mary Beth Heyward said it wouldn't be right to close the school and suggested its students, many of whom now walk to school, would not perform as well if they had to travel out of town.
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"Half of them are going to fall asleep in class because they got up so early to go to school," she said.
If the district closes the school, Heyward said, it could have to build another one soon thereafter if the town grows and succeeds in its quest to redevelop the shuttered Port of Port Royal property.
Washington said he understands the concerns of supporters and encouraged them to stay involved in the process.
Washington said he supports "neighborhood schools" and was surprised Port Royal Elementary landed on the task force's list. But he said he will not take a formal position until later in the process.
Once the task force makes a recommendation to the board, he said, he will ask many of the same questions he heard from council members.
"I don't expect to have a unanimous vote," he said. "I do expect for reason to win out."
Later in the meeting, Lisa Kindwall, chair of the School Improvement Council at Shell Point Elementary, which the task force also is eyeing for closure, encouraged Port Royal Elementary supporters not to resort to infighting among schools as the debate proceeds.
She said supporters of both schools "have to stick up for good schools doing their job in small communities."
"I don't want to get pitted against each other because that can happen," she said. "Let's fight this fight together."
Preliminary school-closure list ruffles Port Royal parents, community, Monday, July 11, 2011: http://www.lowcountrynewspapers.net/archive/2011/07/11/story/preliminary...