Ground broken for Stono Park Elementary

Ground broken for Stono Park Elementary
May 18 13:32 2018 Print This Article

After a contentious battle over whether to build a new Stono Park Elementary school building or renovate the 66-year-old existing building on Garden Street in West Ashley, a ground-breaking ceremony for the new building was held Friday at the former St. Andrews High School building, now used as a “swing space” for schools in transition. The new two-story building is scheduled to open in August 2019 and will accommodate 500 students. Longtime Live 5 News anchor Bill Sharpe was on-hand for the event. His father was the principal at Stono Park when it opened in 1952. The original building was raised in July 2017.

Charleston County School District (CCSD) staff initially recommended an $8 Million renovation for the aging building, which had mold in the vent ducting and significant structural problems. A strong lobbying effort by parents, teachers and community members convinced the School Board to vote for a $24.8 Million new building at the original site. Consolidated School Board member Michael Miller said that hundreds of people visited his West Ashley barber shop to ask when the new school would be approved. District 10 (West Ashley) constituent school board Chair Rodney Lewis proclaimed the ground-breaking ceremony marked a victory for neighborhood schools. Rhetorically, he asked, “What about educating children where they live?”

Longtime Stono Park Principal Michelle Simmons, who is now the CCSD Director of Elementary Learning, was recognized at the ceremony. She was cited for superior leadership in a 2017 Charleston Teacher alliance survey. Current Principal Latrice Smalls served as lead teacher under Simmons for eight years before being promoted. She recognized the Stono Park teachers who had been on the faculty for 10 years or longer. The school does not have an assistant principal due to its enrollment of about 300 students. The school choir performed two songs, “You Can Count On Me” and “Heal the World”, to open and close the ceremony, which was attended by Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait, Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg, State Representative Leon Stavrinakis and District 10 constituent school board members Lewis, Rob Childress, Jen Osteen and Henry Copeland.

Located in a racially balanced middle income attendance zone, Stono Park has a student population which is 83% black and 5% latino, with 91% of students living in poverty. The school has significantly better student performance¬†than other CCSD schools with similar demographics. When the school re-opens in its new building, it hopes to attract more students from the surrounding neighborhoods. Tecklenburg spoke about the importance of quality neighborhood schools and remarked that “the new building will bring about a new spirit of excellence.”