by Jim Foster
Representatives of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights will visit Beaufort County next week to hear comments and listen to concerns from local parents and citizens.
The public meeting will be at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 17, at the Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence located at 80 Lowcountry Drive, near Ridgeland just off Highway 170.
Under a 40-year-old voluntary desegregation agreement between the school district and the federal government, OCR must approve local board decisions that involve school closings or student reassignments that might affect the demographic makeup of school populations. For example, OCR must approve the board’s August 5 decision to close Shell Point Elementary School and the resulting reassignment of students before those actions can take place.
The school district invited OCR representatives to visit Beaufort after OCR’s role was discussed in the wake of the board’s vote to close Shell Point Elementary. OCR’s role was also mentioned during a parent meeting about student reassignments involving Okatie, Red Cedar and Bluffton elementary schools. The board voted last week to delay those reassignments until the 2013-14 school year.
At Monday’s 6 p.m. meeting, School Board Chairman Fred Washington Jr. will introduce two OCR representatives who will give an overview of the district’s voluntary desegregation agreement, describe OCR’s duties and responsibilities relating to that agreement and the school board’s recent decisions. The two OCR representatives will then listen to any comments from parents or citizens about recent board decisions, although they will not answer specific questions about those decisions.