Changes proposed for West Ashley schools

Changes proposed for West Ashley schools
November 11 19:08 2019 Print This Article

At its monthly committee meeting Monday, the Charleston County School Board proposed sweeping changes, some of which directly impact West Ashley schools. Ashley River Creative Arts Elementary may get a priority zoning area, giving students in the neighborhoods surrounding Citadel Mall an opportunity to attend the successful arts infusion school. The District 10 constituent school board will be tasked with restructuring the attendance zones.

In a reversal of earlier stated policy, the board voted to retain St. Andrews Math and Science Elementary as a District 10 Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) “partial magnet” school. The final vote on that policy will occur on December 16. Many parents from the school showed up at an October meeting at West Ashley High School to oppose the change.

The board voted to combine C.E. Williams and West Ashley Middle schools. The 7th and 8th grades will be combined at the new construction C.E. Williams site on the West Ashley High School campus, and the 6th graders will occupy a separate campus. Board members Kevin Hollinshead and Chris Collins voted against the merger, citing lots of e-mails from West Ashley residents opposing it. College of Charleston will be offering college credit courses at West Ashley High School, with a handful of Burke students joining in. The final vote on those policy changes will occur Monday, November 18.

The school board committee meeting had an overflow crowd. A group of parents opposed to the proposed changes handed out stickers stating, “Taxpayers and Legislators say: Do Your Homework! Delay the Vote!” The Charleston County Legislative Delegation, consisting of 22 State Senators and Representatives with voters in Charleston County, sent a letter to the school board and Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait to delay voting on sweeping changes until meeting with the legislators and holding community meetings. School board chair Eric Mack sent the delegation a letter saying that he would meet with the legislators after the decisions are made. No legislators attended the meeting.

The public comment period Monday gave 30 attendees the chance to speak for two minutes. Many others wanted a chance to speak. Among the commonly expressed concerns was the speed of the policy changes, the feeling that stakeholders did not have enough say in the process, the desire to retain the popular “partial magnet” programs, and the unease over proposed school consolidations. Several speakers and board members questioned why proposed changes did not have budget figures attached. There were also several proposed changes operating under the assumption that the 1% school construction sales tax will be extended by Charleston County voters in 2020.

Not on the agenda Monday was a discussion about Postlewait’s contract. It expires on November 16 but will be automatically extended for a year. Hollinshead and Collins wanted the matter taken up, but it takes at least four board members to add an item to the board agenda.