EDISTO ISLAND, SC (WCSC) - The Charleston County School District's plan to close small schools is being met with community pushback.
Now the district's superintendent is considering to allow Jane Edwards Elementary School on Edisto Island to remain open for another year. The district held a public meeting Saturday morning at the school to hear community concerns and to inform them of the new proposal.
Jane Edwards Elementary is currently the only public school on Edisto Island and this is not the first fight to keep it open.
"The school is the center of the community and to automatically or to quickly say that we're going to shut the school down just destroys a community," a local resident, Lou Rasmussen said. "It feels like they're pushing all the concerns of the money problems on a rural school."
The school board has been exploring ways to the balance the district school budget after its $18 million shortfall. Jane Edwards school was targeted because of its small size and high costs for the district. The costs are about $20,000 per student a year and the district average is nearly half that.
After hearing the community opposition board member Eric Mack says it will consider a recommendation to keep the school open until the end of next school year. The board would also explore options for keeping a school on the island
"The end goal is to make sure that...kids are not bused from Jane Edwards to Minnie Hughes or another school," Mack said.
Minnie Hughes Elementary School is just under 15 miles away.
"Even though we are a small community, taking our youngest ones and busing them so far away would be really difficult for them," teacher Cathy Mayer said.
Families have considered moving and some parents have secured spots for their children in charter or magnet schools because the future of Jane Edwards is still in limbo.
"We have a window of a chance to come up with a solution," Mack said.
If the school board votes in favor of the new proposal it will meet quarterly to explore options that could keep the school open. They will also seek community input for ideas. Some considerations could include making it a charter school or moving county lines so more students could attend the school among several other options. The most viable options have not been determined.
While some remain skeptical the principal of the school, Susan Miles, is hopeful for a solution.
"Their intent is to be sure that the community is involved in a process to help keep our school open [and] have those educational opportunities out here on the island," Miles said.
The school board will vote on the recommendation to keep the school open for another school year in a special meeting on Monday. It'll also vote on the proposed closing of Lincoln Middle High School located in McClellanville.