Families with students who could potentially be affected by Berkeley County School District's redrawing of its attendance lines are demanding district officials reveal their long-term plans for area growth.
Many parents were dissatisfied with the district’s second meeting on the topic, which was a drop-in style format. They told district officials and board members they wished the Jan. 31 event at Sangaree Middle School could've been an open forum.
The meeting was specific to parents - living in the Sangaree area - of current Cane Bay High students who could possibly be switching to Stratford High in Goose Creek, should the attendance line changes go into effect; the decision would affect roughly 485 students, district officials said.
The attendance line changes are in response to the continuously growing district. In December, consultant Tony Park of Harding Parker and Associates laid out ideas addressing the district’s growth.
The attendance line changes include moving students at Carnes Crossroads from Cane Bay Elementary to Devon Forest Elementary; moving students at Carnes Crossroads from Cane Bay Middle to College Park Middle; and moving Sangaree students from Cane Bay High to Stratford High.
But the plan, if implemented, would only be an immediate and temporary solution to the growth challenge. Board member Ann Conder told parents the board has not made any final decisions regarding the changes and won't do so until the district has gathered enough public feedback.
“We do understand that we will need to build schools, and we are currently working to determine the best way to fund new school construction,” she told residents in her welcoming remarks. “However, we also know (it) can take up to three years to complete school construction.”
Board member David Barrow described the growth in Berkeley County as “unprecedented," revealing that the district in particular grows by about 900 to 1,000 students annually.
“So that places a tremendous burden on the existing structures that we have and the responsibility that we have for the future,” he said.
Most of the district growth is occurring in Cane Bay and its main high school already at max capacity for allowance of students, Barrow said. Luckily, Stratford High has some room.
During mid-meeting, parents were encouraged to check out easels set up at Sangaree Middle, voice their concerns to district officials and fill out comment cards. However, multiple parents in the crowd wanted to turn the event into an open forum.
Comments from Mary Clark, who told the board she has one child at Cane Bay High and another at Sangaree Middle, who will be attending the same high school in a couple of years, drew audience applause.
“Am I going to have to go through this all over again?” Clark said. “You’re talking about destructing my child’s life – her education…the advantages that she has by attending Cane Bay that the other high schools do not have.”
After the meeting, Clark told the Berkeley Independent that she hopes the district will realize the possible school changes could greatly affect the lives of "people that live and support this community.
"They don’t need to do what’s best for them and their short-term goals," she said of district officials. "They need to think about the people that pay the taxes, that pay their salaries and…vote them into office."
Clark said she is “absolutely” against her children having to switch to Stratford, saying she chose to move to Sangaree because of Cane Bay High.
“Both of my children have refused to go to Stratford and they…will (be) home-schooled if forced,” she said.
Clark said she plans to stay on top of the issue and also expressed frustration that the meeting was originally meant to be a forum “where we could ask collective questions,” as opposed to the drop-in format.
According to resident Jessica Schieffer, who lives in one of the areas under the consideration for attendance line changes, said her sophomore daughter, Jennah Wright, is enrolled in a Cane Bay High law program not offered at Stratford and also doesn't want Wright to switch schools.
“If they do decide to move us to Stratford, I’m fighting,” Schieffer said.
She added that the issue goes beyond the children, affecting home prices in an area she's lived 23 years.
“It’s our property values as well,” Schieffer said.
Tracy Sineath, who has an 11th-grade son, with Asperger's, in advanced placement classes, also expressed concerns about his teen going to a whole new school his senior year. He said he had a similar change his final year of high school.
“I was a senior going to a whole new school my senior year, it killed me,” Sineath said, adding that he moved into his neighborhood 12 years ago with the understanding his children would be going to Cane Bay High.
“And now we’re being told, ‘Oh, hey, we might do this,’ but we don’t have real answers," he said.
Sineath said he was hoping to have his say during Thursday night’s meeting but was dissatisfied with the setup, saying he wanted an open forum.
“I didn’t come here for a lecture, I came here to give you my opinion,” he said.
The next community meeting has not yet been announced.