Parents angry over Buist Academy's move

CHARLESTON, SC - By Hatzel Vela  bio | email | Twitter

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The decision to relocate Buist Academy was already made, but parents are still angry and concerned over unresolved issues.

Buist Academy will share facilities with Laing Middle School at the old Wando South campus on Mathis Ferry Road in Mt. Pleasant.

Buist is one of five schools being relocated because its facilities are not deemed safe if an earthquake were to hit the area.

Parents worry sharing facilities with Laing Middle School could harm Buist's long-time academic reputation.

Many are angry because the Wando South campus, which is located about eight miles from the downtown campus, was not their first choice.

They are also concerned about the condition of the Wando building.

Several posters in the room showed damage from the Wando facility, which Superintendent Nancy McGinley said was the result of the building being unoccupied.

"No one is ever happy when they end up with their second choice," said Claire Curtis, chairman of the school's Improvement Council.

Parents were behind moving to the old Academic Magnet High School building on North Charleston's old Navy Base.

The school board dropped the option. Parents were then told the Brentwood campus could be an option, but ultimately Wando South became the favorite amongst district leaders and the elected board members.

"A lot of anger and trust issues have been 'you're offered one thing then that's taken away,'" said Curtis, whose two children attend Buist.

Parents are concerned over other issues like school start time, distribution of space and sharing of assembly spaces like the cafeteria and gym.

"Those problems are all solvable. But because they have yet to be solved, parents are still upset about them," Curtis said.

Two months ago Curtis would have been part of the angry audience, but she realized they have to make the best of the situation.

She is not surprised by the amount of parents who showed up at the school's auditorium Monday night.

"You're talking about parents, who are always going to be worried as they should be about their children," she said.

Charleston County Schools Superintendent Dr. Nancy McGinley wants better communication to prevent rumors from spreading, which she thinks make the relocation process less efficient.

McGinley knows the district will have to keep up their promises in order to rebuild trust, which has suffered during the process.

She asked a very rowdy crowd to give her staff a chance.

"We are two days out of the last school year and I promise you that we have enough time to get this school up and running and run a very high quality program," she said.

Because Curtis has been working closely with the district, she feels more optimistic about the outcome of the situation.

But Curtis warned the district that parents will stay vigilant and informed throughout the moving process this summer.

"I think it is really important for Buist parents to understand that we're moving forward. We're going to Wando and the important thing is to make Wando the best place it can possibly be for Buist," Curtis said. "The families are what make the school, the teachers are what make the school and that the physical issues can be solved."

McGinley said in the past three years, two other schools have shared the same building without any major problems.

About 900 students will occupy the Wando South campus, which McGinley said at one point was able to hold 2,800 students.

"Drive might be a little long, but [we're] committed to making this smooth school year and to bringing the school back to Calhoun," McGinley said.

The board has the money to rebuild the schools and pledged to return students to the old site in 2013.

"We are two days out of the last school year and I promise you that we have enough time to get this school up and running and run a very high quality program," McGinley said to parents, who fear this move may be too rushed.

©2010 WCSC. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.