West Ashley parents ask about adding a middle school

West Ashley parents ask about adding a middle school
April 22 21:22 2019 Print This Article

About 70 school reform advocates assembled at West Ashley High School Monday evening to discuss future plans for West Ashley schools. While the Charleston County School District (CCSD) asked participants to consider the feasibility of combining the two West Ashley middle schools controlled by the district, parents and other participants asked for CCSD to consider building a third middle school in the area.

C.E. Williams Middle School has an enrollment of 640, which is at capacity at its current location near Carolina Bay. It is moving into a new building with a capacity of 900 students adjacent to West Ashley High School in August 2020. West Ashley Advanced Studies Magnet has an enrollment of 610 at the former Middleton High School campus. There is no building available that could accommodate the 1250 combined students. Participants pointed to the rapid growth in West Ashley and suggested that a third middle school is needed. Charleston County voters will likely vote on a 1% sales tax for new buildings on the 2020 ballot.

MUSC Chief Diversity Officer Anton Gunn and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lowcountry President Merridith Crowe moderated the meeting. Of the six CCSD objectives proposed for West Ashley, the most popular were improving academic achievement at the high poverty schools and improving teacher support services. Participants suggested that additional resources are needed for the high-poverty schools. They also encouraged welcoming more parental involvement.

Another suggestion was to adopt best practices from Orange Grove Charter School, Ashley River Creative Arts Elementary and other schools which are excelling. Orange Grove is a K-8 school which operates under an independent board of directors. It received a record 1500 student applications for the 2019-2020 school year, including 449 for the 100 spots available in kindergarten. More than 95% of students who enter Orange Grove in kindergarten remain at the school through 8th grade.

Gunn and Crowe, who both have children in West Ashley schools, will summarize the data and comments entered by the participants Thursday. They will gather feedback from teachers and principals from West Ashley schools and present the information at a follow-up meeting Wednesday, May 22 at West Ashley High School. Recommendations to the Charleston County School Board are expected to be made prior to the June 24 board meeting, but Gunn said he would recommend an extension if more community input is needed.