West Ashley rejects proposal to consolidate middle schools

West Ashley rejects proposal to consolidate middle schools
May 23 08:31 2019 Print This Article

After three public meetings to provide feedback on six “mission critical action items” proposed for West Ashley schools by Charleston County School District (CCSD), participants rejected the proposal to combine C.E. Williams and West Ashley Advanced Studies Magnet (WAASM) middle schools. There were concerns expressed about the need to upgrade WAASM facilities, provide the school with more academic support and provide clarity on attendance lines for the middle schools.

Facilitator Anton Gunn, the Chief Diversity Officer at MUSC, said a lot of the opposition to the merger relates to the unsuccessful merger of St. Andrews and West Ashley middle schools in 2014. He also noted that there are no facilities available for the combined 1250 middle school students. C.E. Williams, with an enrollment of 640 students, will move into a new building with a capacity of 900 near the West Ashley High School campus in August 2020. Funding for a new WAASM building could be included in a 2020 school construction sales tax referendum.

The third public meeting was held Wednesday at West Ashley High School, following meetings held on April 22 and April 29. The April 29 meeting was exclusively for principals and teachers. Principals, teachers, parents, and community members all agreed that combining the middle schools was a bad idea. The participants all agreed that more training and support was needed for faculty members at low-performing West Ashley schools, that extra resources and new strategies are needed to improve student achievement at the low-performing schools, and that re-drawing school attendance lines would help improve neighborhood schools and reduce West Ashley traffic.

State law requires attendance lines to be drawn by CCSD’s eight constituent district school boards. The responsibility for drawing attendance lines for West Ashley schools lies with the five member District 10 constituent school board, chaired by Rodney Lewis. A proposal to re-draw the lines in accordance with state law is to appoint an ad hoc committee to recommend new attendance maps for elementary and middle schools (West Ashley has only one high school) and present them to the District 10 board for an up or down vote, similar to the military base closure process. The committee members could be appointed by the District 10 board members and the three consolidated school board members elected to represent West Ashley.

Some other issues discussed Wednesday were sharing the best practices followed by Orange Grove Charter School (elementary and middle school) and Ashley River Creative Arts Elementary with other schools and addressing the school bus service, currently contracted to Durham School Services. Several parents noted that the buses often run late and that they have to drive their children to school to get them there on time. The extra cars on the road impact traffic throughout West Ashley.

Gunn and co-facilitator Merridith Crowe, President of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lowcountry, will review all of the feedback submitted during the three public meetings and send recommendations to CCSD June 7. The Charleston County School Board is expected to act on the “mission critical action items” reviewed by the West Ashley constituents, as well as those considered in the North Area, the Peninsula and Johns Island at its June 24 meeting. Gunn encouraged everyone to stay engaged in the efforts to make West Ashley schools better.