FORT MILL — More than 200 people gathered at Nation Ford High School Tuesday night to hear a proposal for new elementary school reassignment lines.
Despite earlier warnings from the districts consultant that neighborhoods might be split during the reassignment process, the proposal unveiled Tuesday would keep neighborhoods largely intact.
Baxter Village residents erupted into cheers upon hearing that the community would not be split into two attendance areas but would remain zoned for Orchard Park Elementary.
If the school board approves the plan, Tega Cay would be split between Gold Hill Elementary and the under-construction Tega Cay Elementary, but individual neighborhoods within the city will be zoned for the same school.
The Lake Ridge community in Tega Cay and much of the surrounding area would remain zoned for Gold Hill Elementary, while Lake Shore, among other neighborhoods, would attend Tega Cay Elementary.
The new Dobys Bridge Elementary School would be filled by students living from Fairway Drive and Williams Road toward the Lancaster County line, including the White Grove, Dominion Bridge, Massey and Huntington Farms neighborhoods.
Middle and high school attendance zones would remain unchanged.
Baxter Village residents showed up to the meeting en masse after rumors spread through the community that the proposal would split their community between separate attendance zones, along Sutton Road.
A Facebook page and a petition were created to oppose such a proposal, but no such plan ever existed, Superintendent Chuck Epps said.
Thats not accurate at all, Epps said. There were no previous plans. We started with a clean slate.
Sheri Michael, the parent of an Orchard Park student, said she was concerned at the disparity between the percentage of students receiving free and reduced lunch at Riverview and Orchard Park elementary schools.
The proposal shows 50.8 percent of Riverview Elementary School students would be eligible for free and reduced lunch, compared to the current 44.3 percent, while the percentage of Orchard Park students eligible for free and reduced lunch would drop to 5.3 percent, from 15.8 percent.
I want my child to interact with all kinds of people, Michael said. And I worry about the level of [parent] support the school will receive.
PTO and volunteer participation is often higher at schools with a lower percentage of students eligible for free and reduced lunch, she said, and she worries that increasing that rate at Riverview could put a burden on the school.
Dale Holden, the consultant hired by the district to develop the proposal, said that based on surveys conducted earlier this year, preserving neighborhoods was important to parents.
He focused on preserving neighborhoods, he said, and demographics such as the percentage of students receiving free and reduced lunch were not weighted as heavily.
The bottom line is, Fort Mill School District is doing a good job of educating all of its children, Holden said.
He worked on the proposal for three to four months, using demographics from the district and taking into account new subdivisions planned within the school district. Right now, 10,802 new homes are expected to be built in the district.
There is a significant impact from these developments, Holden said, and the district needs to be smart even though we dont know who will move into these homes.
Baxter resident Jeff Sopel said he was happy with the proposal but still disappointed with what he sees as unchecked growth in the community creating problems for the district. He said the district needs more cooperation from town and county planning officials to manage growth.
I feel Dr. Epps is being dealt a bad hand by the planning boards not having planned growth, Sopel said. No one is saying, Can you handle this growth?
Maps and other materials presented during the meeting are available for viewing at the school district7s website fort-mill.k12.sc.us where parents can click on a link to submit feedback about the proposal.
The proposed attendance map also can be viewed at each of the districts elementary schools.
Epps said he will make a recommendation about proposed attendance zones to the school board Oct. 22. The board will take its first vote on the proposal Nov. 5.