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LOWCOUNTRY LOWDOWN

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By Lolita Huckaby

Hi ho, hi ho, it’s back to school they go…

BEAUFORT – Back to school used to mean new clothes, maybe a new haircut, new book bags and school bus route. Maybe for some families that’s still the case but, for the county’s 20,000 public school students headed back this week, it meant renewed debate on mask wearing. 

Even before classes got started, the Battery Creek football team and Beaufort High JV cheerleading team have been quarantined. Lots of teachers have reported they’ll be wearing masks; some have made it clear they won’t be. The district does plan to keep students three feet from one another in the classroom. 

At the end of the school year, when online classes were offered as well as in-person classes, the majority of students – 70 percent – were taking the in-person classes. This year the online programs will not be offered except in a special middle-school pilot program called the Lowcountry Virtual Academy. 

John Paul II Catholic School also began classes this week while Beaufort Academy began last week. Both, like the public schools, are encouraging students to wear masks but not requiring them 

The S.C. General Assembly, you may remember, sneaked an item into next year’s budget bill prohibiting public schools from mandating masks, so that eliminated a lot of the debate and decision-making for the local school boards. 

Fingers crossed this works since ICU beds at hospitals like Beaufort Memorial are already full with sick COVID patients. 

Still reading your Comp Plans? 

BEAUFORT – IF you didn’t get a chance to comment, in public, about the city of Beaufort’s proposed Comprehensive Plan last week, it’s not too late. 

Thirty-two interested citizens showed up for in-person review during three sessions last week. Another 15 offered on-line comments. 

In an attempt to engage more folks, officials also extended the public comment period from Aug. 20 to Sept. 7, with an overall goal, still, of getting the plan completed by the end of the year. 

They’ve also set up a special website where you can read the document at your leisure AND make comments. https://cityofbeaufort.civilspace.io/en/projects/ beaufort-s-comprehensive-plan-2021.

Beaufort County planners will present “Envision Beaufort County” starting August 31.

After being criticized for not having a more detailed document, the city staff stressed their plan was only the draft, that details would be added following more comment. They also stressed the plan is a “flexible document” which can be revised over time. 

The county, on the other hand, stresses their plan is “the final version.” 

Both entities have to work pretty quickly to keep up with the development that seems to be coming our way. 


Thank you, Ms. Kling 

BEAUFORT – The Island News Editor Mike McCombs had a nice profile last week of Bay Street businesswoman Connie Kling and the closure of her dress store after almost 40 years. 

Kling had some very nice things to say about her loyal customers, the Beaufort Community and some interesting insights about Bay Street property owners. 

For example, she shared with the readers how many small businesses had come and gone during her time on Bay Street. She remembered during the recessions when several stores on Bay Street were vacant. 

She also noted “things changed” in the early 1990s when more and more people started coming to Beaufort. The city fathers invested in “Streetscape” to make the area more attractive and properties changed hands and rents went up. 

(She also credited Pat Conroy’s books with “getting Beaufort on the map” which is not the first time “old-timers” have pointed to Conroy’s writings as the lure that brought many flocking to the Lowcountry.) 

Kling concluded it’s probably the right time for her to retire and close the door on Deals. 

She might have a good point, with all the massive new buildings being permitted. 

And pondering on her observations about Bay Street, consider the city’s Design Review Board’s final approval last week of the 197,000 square foot shopping center on Robert Smalls Parkway, outside of the downtown core business area. Consider as well the proposed new building spaces in what’s being called the new Publix shopping center (replacing the Beaufort Plaza theater). 

Stating the obvious: times, they are a’changing. 

Lolita Huckaby Watson is a community volunteer and former reporter/editorial assistant/columnist with The Beaufort Gazette, The Savannah Morning News, Bluffton Today, Beaufort Today and The Robesonian (Lumberton, N.C.). She can be reached at bftbay@gmail.com. 


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