James Island community rallies together to "veto the depot"

JAMES ISLAND, SC (WCSC) - A James Island organization met Monday night to bring the community together in an effort to prevent putting a new bus lot at the site of a historic school.

The Charleston County School Board voted last month to put the lot at Gresham Meggett School on Grimball Road.

It was the first school built for African Americans on James Island and is no longer open.

The vote to put the lot at the school came after residents spoke out against putting buses at James Island Elementary School.

It was a full house at the St. James Presbyterian Church Monday evening as the James Island Interfaith Action Committee brought the community together in an effort to 'veto the depot'.

"There has to be another solution," Caroline Key said.

Key's 91-year-old mother lives across the road from the Gresham Meggett School.

"I don't think any community should have to deal with that problem especially as the health is concerned and you can't put a price on that," Key said.

Right now, buses are stationed at Fort Johnson Middle School, and the district said in a statement Monday night that, "Charleston County School District (CCSD) is committed to providing safe and efficient transportation for all of our students throughout Charleston County. Therefore, we must provide students on James Island with timely service to their schools, and a central bus lot is critical to meeting that expectation."

District officials say next year some buses will have to be moved so construction can begin on the new Camp Road Middle School.

That school will combine Fort Johnson and James Island Middle Schools.

Despite residents concerns about their health, the school district says air quality standards would be met at the school, but people are still concerned about the effects the bus fumes and dust could have on people with asthma and breathing issues, and also the dangers the buses present to kids.

"I know you can't see kids at times in winter time and the buses when they come by kick up debris and whatever else, and it's a dangerous situation," one of the community meeting members said.

The Charleston County School District released this statement Monday night, "The Board of Trustees directed the district on June 26, 2017 to build the District 3 Bus Lot at the W. Gresham Meggett campus. The planning for the project will be thorough, and will take into account protecting the historic building, environmental concerns, and traffic. CCSD officials will continue to engage the community, and provide updates about the project."

However Charleston County Councilwoman Anna Johnson said the community has not been engaged with.

Johnson spoke out against the proposed bus lot, saying this project has been in the works for years and the district knew how the neighborhood felt about it.

"When we were looking for properties for the library we spoke to Charleston County school staff about possibly utilizing the old school for the library at that time it was mentioned about having the bus lot put in that area," Johnson said that was two years ago. "The community has already said it does not want a bus lot in that area," said Johnson.

Key said her mother and her neighbors did not know about the proposed bus lot until it was already decided it would be in their community, and it was too late.

"We understand all this was done prior to the decision that was made for this location so all this happened after the fact," said Key.

The district first looked at putting the new lot at James Island Elementary School but after facing opposition decided to place the bus lot at Gresham Meggett.

Johnson also said the district knew how the community felt about the lot and said she doesn't know why the district listened to the community when it came to putting the lot at James Island Elementary when the new location is in the same neighborhood.

"I don't see why they're saying they didn't know. The community was very concerned about the bus lot coming in the area and not to change the bus lot from the James Island Elementary School on the other side of the property right next to Graham Megget. That doesn't make any sense to me," Johnson said.

"This is something that should have never gotten this far in my judgment," said Johnson" I don't' know how we got there I don't know how, what rationalization they used to change from one side of the property line to the other."

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