Proposed Johns Island elementary school raises traffic concerns

Traffic patterns and flooding are just a few concerns the people of Johns Island are having about the location of a new elementary school in District 9.
Published: Nov. 3, 2022 at 11:08 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 3, 2022 at 11:13 PM EDT
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JOHNS ISLAND, S.C. (WCSC) - Traffic patterns and flooding are just a few concerns the people of Johns Island are having about the location of a new elementary school in District 9.

Dozens of parents and people that live off River Road gathered on Thursday evening to respond to Charleston County School District’s updated plans.

The plans include opening new elementary school off River Road for the 2024-2025 school year. With multiple traffic fatalities happening on this road in the last few years, people are concerned that student safety is not a top priority.

“I’m fine with putting a school anywhere on the island, just not where we are going to have the most amount of traffic that is not patrolled,” Courtney Morris-West, a resident that lives off River Road.

This new school will be for grades second through fifth and will house 700 students. This results from neighboring schools like Angel Oak Elementary and Mt. Zion Elementary being at or over capacity.

In the community meeting, the district presented updated plans that include a redesign of a roundabout, possible bell schedules for parents with kids attending multiple schools, and more.

Harrison Harbin, a Mt. Zion Elementary parent, says traffic projections are one of his biggest concerns.

“Ten years ago, Johns Island is a different place than it is today,” Harbin said. “So, by taking that five-year segment of data and using the traffic growth of 2% to dictate what’s going to happen in the next ten years doesn’t really seem realistic to me.”

Morris-West says her property is dead center of where this new school will be located. She says two years ago, her daughter’s car was totaled by a drunk driver off River Road.

The Charleston Police Department says they’ve responded to three crashes involving deaths in the last five years -- a concern Morris-West says the local leaders needs to take more seriously.

“Nobody wants to take ownership of owning this stretch of property and now they want to put a school there,” Morris-West said.

Others mentioned issues of potential flooding going from the school onto nearby properties because of it being built on wetlands.

“It’s going to impact our property and our lives,” Morris-West said. “They should ask that before they take the study to invest in these architects and these builders to do it.”

Harbin says he doesn’t want the district to jump the gun too soon.

“We would all rather wait an extra year and continue to burst at the seams knowing that we’re going to be in a safe scenario with safe roads and a safe way to get to school in the morning,” Harbin said.

District officials say the approval process for this plan will take months. The county’s design review board will have their first of three meetings of review on Nov. 7.