“School of Choice” plan puts parents, students in the driver’s seat

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By Jeff Moss, superintendent of Beaufort County School District

Every parent knows from personal experience that each child is an extraordinary, unique individual. Each child has different interests, talents and strengths.

Last year, the Beaufort County School District unveiled an ambitious plan to transform each school into a “school of choice” with a specialized approach to learning. Parents could then select the type of instruction, and the type of school focus, that appealed to their children – no matter where they lived in the district. To put it mildly, parents loved it. Choice applications approved for the current academic year have allowed 2,900 students – 13 percent of the district’s total enrollment – to attend schools outside their zoned attendance areas.

I recently met a Lady’s Island parent of three children who is a terrific example of a dedicated “school shopper.” This year two of her children are attending an out-of-zone elementary school that offers an accelerated math and science curriculum, while the third is thriving in the arts-infused program offered by his zoned school, Lady’s Island Middle. This parent carefully investigated her options, visited several schools and made her choices.

From now until 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 1, the district is accepting school choice applications for the 2016-17 academic year. Current instructional options include such choices as Montessori, International Baccalaureate, arts infused, Classical Studies, dual language immersion, early college, leadership programs and advanced math and science.

The “School Choice Headquarters” on the district’s website (www.beaufortk.12.sc.us) offers lots of information about our choice options, as well as answers to questions about the application process. The next edition of “Our Schools,” the district’s monthly TV show in partnership with The County Channel, focuses on school choice and begins airing this Friday, Feb. 4. And hundreds of parents are attending district- and school-sponsored information fairs to learn more about what’s available.

There are three ways to apply:

1. Complete an online application on the School Choice Headquarters page of the district’s website. Online applications must be submitted by 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 1.

2. Complete a hard-copy application that can be downloaded and printed from the School Choice Headquarters site, or picked up from any district school. Hard-copy applications must be mailed (and postmarked no later than Tuesday, March 1) to Carolyn Bostick, Office of Student Services, Beaufort County School District, 2900 Mink Point Blvd., Beaufort, SC 29901.

3.  Hand-deliver a completed hard-copy application no later than 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 1, to the Beaufort County School District’s main offices at 2900 Mink Point Blvd. in Beaufort.

Military families and other families who can document that they moved to Beaufort County after the March 1 deadline but before July 31 may still submit applications.

Beaufort County students who attend choice programs do not pay extra tuition, although families are responsible for student transportation if they live outside of their local schools’ attendance zones. All choice schools also serve children who live in their attendance zones, in addition to students from outside the zone who apply to attend.

And all district schools – regardless of their instructional “specialty” – maintain a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics focus, as well as a core program that includes the arts, world languages and technology.