The current structure -- in which sixth- and seventh-graders attend Bluffton Middle School and eighth- and ninth-graders attend H.E. McCracken Middle School -- won't work next school year. Beaufort County Board of Education members were told at a work session at district offices that the schools are over capacity, and enrollment is expected to grow.
"This big issue is space," interim superintendent Jackie Rosswurm said. "We have no space at Bluffton Middle or McCracken."
The grade structure -- different from all other middle schools in the district, which include either fifth-through-eighth grades or sixth-through eighth grades -- was adopted in 2010 to ease overcrowding at Bluffton High School. But that arrangement is set to expire next year -- and even if it weren't, it would no longer be possible, district officials said. "Both (middle schools) are over capacity, and there's no place for mobile units," Rosswurm said.
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The school board approved on Friday the formation of a community committee to research short-term and long-term solutions. Th committee is to report back with some recommendations by March. The board also approved a meeting with school improvement councils of Bluffton schools Nov. 29.
Though it's not clear whether ninth-graders will move to Bluffton High next year, the school's principal, Mark Dievendorf, said he is planning for that, just in case. A ninth-grade move would mean an influx of about 470 students at the school of 1,124, and more portable classrooms could be needed. The school is at 78 percent capacity currently with only grades 10 through 12.A few board members said it seemed clear more schools would eventually have to be built in the Bluffton area. The school district owns two tracts available and has about $25 million from a 2008 bond issue.
That money could be used for an elementary school to house kindergarten through eighth grade, district chief of operations Phyllis White said.
Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.