Beaufort News

Parents, residents question plans for school closings

About 100 parents, students and community members filled the Battery Creek High School cafeteria on Thursday to ask questions and speak out against the school closings being considered for the 2012-13 school year.

Several voiced opposition to a plan that would consolidate Battery Creek High and Robert Smalls Middle School. The middle school would close, and students in grades six through eight would move to the high school building.

Melina Lee, who has children at both schools, said middle schoolers are not mature enough for a high school setting.

"They're going to see things that we don't even like to see," she said.

Heather Bundy, a literacy coach at Robert Smalls, questioned whether the cost savings realized by closing the school would outweigh liability issues that could come with housing 10-year-olds in the same building as 18-year-olds.

"It is not morally, socially or educationally sound to house our middle school students with high school students," she said.

Thursday's meeting was the second in a series of public meetings the Beaufort County School District is hosting to discuss possible closings and attendance zone changes.

The school board voted last week to direct district staff to create a list of schools that could be closed for the 2012-13 school year to save on operating costs. The board has agreed it will not close any schools next school year.

A list of eight schools to be considered was presented this week. They are: James J. Davis Early Childhood Education Center, Hilton Head Island Early Childhood Center, Broad River Elementary, Shell Point Elementary, Shanklin Elementary, Lady's Island Elementary, Port Royal Elementary and Robert Smalls Middle School.

School officials said those options -- identified through an analysis by district staff -- aren't the only possibilities and encouraged community members to generate their own ideas.

"We want you to be a part of this and make suggestions," said Phyllis White, the district's operational services chief.

Another public meeting on potential closings will be 6 p.m. Tuesday at Beaufort High School. The school board then plans to appoint a task force of school and community representatives to study the options and make a recommendation.

Board chairman Fred Washington Jr. said he was thrilled with the turnout Thursday, after only a handful of residents attended a similar meeting held at Bluffton High School on Wednesday.

"But this is the beginning of the process," he told attendees. "Stay involved and stay informed with facts, not rumors. ... We look forward to your continued involvement in the process."