West Ashley middle school status still in flux

West Ashley middle school status still in flux
April 21 08:57 2020 Print This Article

The Charleston County School Board passed a motion Monday in an on-line meeting to have a panel of administrators, principals, and parents evaluate a plan to locate all West Ashley 6th grade students at the existing West Ashley Middle School (former Middleton High) for the 2020-2021 school year. All West Ashley 7th and 8th grade students would occupy the new construction C.E. Williams Middle School on Wildcat Boulevard. Some of the 8th grade students would take morning classes at the adjacent West Ashley High School. The school board will consider the panel’s recommendation at its April 27 meeting.

The move would be a departure from the school board’s January 27 decision to merge all 1250 students from the two existing West Ashley middle schools under the control of Charleston County School District (CCSD) into the new C.E. Williams building, which was designed to accommodate only 900 students. The original merger plan would require mobile classrooms to replace the physical education field behind the school for the foreseeable future. The logistics of installing mobile classrooms and ramps, installing electrical wiring and internet connections, managing security concerns, and constructing covered walkways connecting the mobile classrooms with the school building were never discussed with the public.

There is a high level of dissatisfaction with the West Ashley middle schools under the control of CCSD, as evidenced by the large number of applications submitted by West Ashley families for 6th grade spots at charter schools. A charter school is a public school that is governed by an autonomous board of directors. Orange Grove Charter School has a very successful middle school program in West Ashley, but there are very few spaces that open each year, because the student retention rate is consistently above 95% each year. Students who enter the school in kindergarten generally remain there through 8th grade. There were 283 6th grade applications submitted to Orange Grove for about five available spots.

There were more than 600 applications by West Ashley families for 6th grade charter school spots during the School Choice application period that ended on February 28. In addition to Orange Grove, large numbers of 6th grade applications were submitted to Carolina Voyager Charter School, Charleston Math and Science Charter School, and Palmetto Scholars Academy. It is not clear how many applications were submitted by West Ashley parents for 6th grade spaces at South Carolina’s three virtual schools, which have an open enrollment period.

There is a demographic disparity between the students who attend the CCSD middle schools and the West Ashley population as a whole. Census data from 2018 shows that West Ashley had a population of more than 75,000 and that only 15% of children under 18 were living in poverty. The poverty index for all CCSD-controlled middle school students approaches 65%, indicating that many families are seeking better options.