Beaufort News

School district attendance plans could affect 400 students

After a proposal to move fifth-graders to middle schools did not win school board approval earlier this month, the district has been looking at four other options for dispersing students after Shell Point Elementary School is closed next year.

On Monday, about 45 parents got to see the new proposals that would keep fifth-graders in elementary schools but could shift many as 400 students to different schools. The plan to add fifth grade to middle schools would have affected about 200 students.

The plans were presented Sept. 20 to the Board of Education and were shown Monday at a meeting called by the school improvement council at Robert Smalls Middle School.

Under the plans, pockets of students could be moved from Shanklin Elementary to Whale Branch Elementary, from Broad River Elementary to Shanklin, and from Broad River to Beaufort Elementary. In all those plans, students from Shell Point Elementary would attend Broad River.

One proposal would impact only middle-school students: Students in the Beaufort Elementary attendance zone could be split roughly in half between Beaufort Middle and Robert Smalls Middle. That plan, however, causes demographic shifts that might be rejected by the U.S. Office for Civil Rights, which has to approve changes to school boundaries in the district.

A fourth plan combines the middle-school proposal and moves some elementary school students.

Several options leave Robert Smalls Middle only a third full.

No plan drew a consensus of board members.

"Instead of 199 students being rezoned, we may end up with over 400 students," school board member Laura Bush said at the Sept. 20 board meeting. "That is disrupting a lot of children, a lot of families. ... We need to take a long, hard, serious look as to where do we go from here."

Some school board members suggested revisiting the vote to move fifth-graders from Shanklin, Broad River and Shell Point elementary schools to Robert Smalls. That motion failed Sept. 6 in a tie vote.

"We're supposed to be putting long-range plans together that make sense," Vice Chairman George Wilson said at the board meeting. "I think the original plan is the only one that makes sense."

Many of the parents at Monday's meeting urged the school board to revisit the fifth-grade plan.

"Do we want students in our cluster to be sent all over? I don't," said Melina Lee, school improvement council chairwoman at Robert Smalls Middle.

Parents were also concern that if Robert Smalls were only a third full, it could be closed. School board members and district staff said it was unlikely that any school would be closed in the next year.

The school board is expected to vote Oct. 4 on attendance zones.

Fifth grades rejected for Robert Smalls, Beaufort middle schools; Sept. 6, 2011

Moving fifth-graders to Robert Smalls a 'necessity,' says district official; Aug. 31, 2011

Parents, teachers oppose fifth-grade shift to Beaufort Middle; Aug. 24, 2011