New school attendance zones approved

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The Beaufort County Board of Education approved a comprehensive set of attendance zones for schools across the district on Tuesday, April 1.

The zones for northern Beaufort County schools will go into effect next school year, while those for schools in the southern part of the county will take effect when new schools open in the Bluffton community.

The district-wide realignment process began with an initial proposal by Superintendent Jeff Moss that was amended during months of discussion by board members as well as an extended series of town hall meetings where parents and community members offered their feedback.

“I think we’ve put together a plan that allows room for growing numbers of students and room for an expanded variety of instructional choices,” said Board Chairman Bill Evans.  “I also think we’ve done a good job of balancing the district’s logistical challenges with the wishes of parents and community members who’ve spoken with us over the past few months.”

The final two changes to the plan will:

• Allow students who live within a mile of Coosa Elementary School to remain there instead of moving to Lady’s Island Elementary.  That includes the neighborhoods of Newpoint, Bluff Farms and Magnolia Court.

• Keep students from The Gatherings, Moss Creek and Buckingham Landing neighborhoods enrolled at Hilton Head Island schools. Students from the Old South community will be enrolled at Bluffton schools beginning in August 2015.

In the Bluffton community:

• For next school year (2014-15) fifth-graders currently enrolled at Bluffton Elementary will remain there for sixth grade, Bluffton Middle will continue to serve grades 6-7, H.E. McCracken Middle will continue to serve grades 8-9 and Bluffton High will continue to serve grades 10-12.

• The 2015-16 school year will begin with the opening of the new PreK-8 school on Davis Road.  When the new school opens, Bluffton Elementary will return to a PK-5 configuration but the middle and high schools will continue to serve the same grades.

The 2016-17 school year will begin with the opening of the new high school in New Riverside. When that school opens, the two middle schools will move to traditional 6-8 grade configurations and the two high schools will operate with traditional 9-12 configurations.

Evans said that board committees would review the district’s policies on “grandfathering” students in specific school attendance zones. Also to be reviewed, Evans said, would be criteria for students to transfer out of their assigned attendance zones to attend magnet or “choice schools” such as Whale Branch Early College High School for its college credit program or Hilton Head Island High School for its International Baccalaureate program.

To see maps of all school attendance zones, visit www.beaufort.k12.sc.us.