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Heated CCSD meeting ends with expansion and relocation of tech program

CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Charleston County school board members voted 5 to 4 Monday to approve the expansion/move of Lowcountry Tech Academy from downtown Charleston.

Many people spoke for and against the decision at Monday night's meeting.

The plan is to relocate the program, currently on King Street in the Rivers Education Center to spaces in West Ashley, downtown and North Charleston.

As of now, the move will happen June of 2016. Lowcountry Tech currently shares the campus with the Charleston Charter School for Math and Science.

The charter school will take up 100% of the building once the move is complete.

Lowcountry Tech is set to guide students towards companies like Boeing.

CCSD board memeber Todd Garrett says the move comes down to tax payer money.

"We've spent about 3 million dollars on the program over the last two years," said Garrett.

The Lowcountry Tech Academy takes up less than half of the building, and has around 170 students.

"Last year we only had about 130 students using the program," said Garrett.

Garrett says he wants tax payers to get the best use out of the millions it's taking to support the program.

"Push it out to West Ashley, North Charleston and downtown campus, so you got more kids able to use it," said Garrett.

Garrett says it's an expansion, but supporters of keeping the program where it is aren't buying it.

"The term expand does not define the intent," said Beverly Gadson-Birch.

Gadson-Birch says she's worried.

"I just don't see how the program can survive if they move it," said Birch.

The co-founder spent more than a decade trying to get the academy approved by the school board.

Gadson-Birch said, "They thought this out thoroughly before the program was instituted at Rivers, so why all of a sudden it has to deal with money and cost."

She says special classrooms are needed to support the high-tech program.

"Wherever they put it, it's going to cost a whole lot of money; additional staff for the program," said Gadson-Birch.

Gadson-Birch says all she wants is a long term plan.

"We're tired just going back and forth to the board, and we're saying just leave it alone. If you leave it alone, it's going to survive," said Gadson-Birch.

The school district will now plan to have committee meetings ironing out the total cost it will take to make the transition happen. 

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