Beaufort County Board of Education members got a refresher course in their ABC's -- and their Ds and Es -- during Thursday night's continuing discussion of new school attendance zones.
At a meeting of the Student Services Committee, the number of plan options grew from one to five.
During the second of three meetings to discuss redrawing new lines throughout the Beaufort County School District, the school board decided one thing was key: maintaining consistent feeder schools with a clear connection from the elementary level through high school.
"I think the process is working, and I think we made a good bit of progress tonight," school board chairman Bill Evans said. "We came to a consensus on some things and still have some others we need to discuss and decide on."
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Many elements are still up in the air, however.
Superintendent Jeffrey Moss presented plans B through E at Thursday night's meeting in response to questions board members had about the first proposal -- Plan A -- unveiled at the initial meeting on Jan. 13.
That plan would return students from Moss Creek, Old South and The Gatherings -- who now attend Hilton Head Island schools -- to Bluffton. In northern Beaufort County, students at Port Royal and Mossy Oaks elementary schools and Beaufort Middle School would attend Battery Creek High School instead of Beaufort High.
Moss said those lines were drawn to balance enrollment numbers and demographics since several schools are below capacity while others are overcrowded.
In the new plans, Moss and other district officials presented options that undid those proposed changes.
Plan B keeps Mossy Oaks and Port Royal elementary schools feeding in to Beaufort High. Evans and other board members said they were happy with that option.
Plan C keeps students from the Moss Creek, Old South and The Gatherings communities attending Hilton Head Island schools. That plan drew support from parents at Moss Creek -- who have criticized a proposal to move students to Bluffton schools.
Both plans B and C differ little from current zones and don't help efforts to balance enrollment numbers.
"There were a couple of plans presented tonight that didn't change from the current lines, and I think the rationale there was that board members wanted to see the comparisons of the current zones to the new ones," Moss said.
All the plans presented Thursday included creating zones for the two new Bluffton schools, which are being built to alleviate overcrowding. One is an elementary school and the other a high school.
Creating zones for those schools mean all the zones in Bluffton would change.
In Plan A, the zones for the New Riverside-area high school caused concerns because some residents would drive past Bluffton High to get there.
District officials tried to quell those concerns with Plan D, which uses Buckwalter Parkway as a guideline to divide the zones for the two high schools. Under that plan, Moss Creek, Old South and The Gatherings students would attend Bluffton schools.
Several board members said they approved of that plan, but wanted to see a variation that kept those communities' students in Hilton Head schools.
Plan E adjusted some lines between the current zones for Battery Creek High School and Whale Branch Early College High School. While that change creates more space in Whale Branch schools, it would result in overcrowding at Joseph S. Shanklin Elementary School.
The committee has a final meeting at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Okatie Elementary School, where it expects to reach a consensus on a single plan. It then will take that plan to the community during a series of town hall meetings in February to gather feedback.
Moss said he expects the final plan to be a combination of the several already presented.
Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.
- New proposed attendance zones bring districtwide changes, January 13, 2014
- District to present attendance zones for committee's consideration, December 24, 2013
- Student Services Committee approves parameters for new attendance zones, October 21, 2013
- Redrawing attendance zones becomes school board priority, October 13, 2013
- School board decides to build two new schools in Bluffton, October 1, 2013