Changes at Rock Hill's Sunset Park Elementary School may be just the beginning of more options throughout the district.
Since 2004, Sunset Park has been an experiment in progress. It was placed on a year-round calendar and enrollment was voluntary. The school also focused on science and technology studies.
But the school was able to attract only 326 students at its highest enrollment level, when the optimal enrollment is 500 to 550. And instead of improved test scores, performance has declined, and the school has suffered from low teacher retention and a transient student population.
At its meeting Monday, the school board approved changes designed to get Sunset Park back on track. It will switch back to the traditional calendar and will gear its program to accelerated studies for gifted and talented students.
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We have championed year-round calendars as an alternative to the outmoded schedule now followed by most schools. But making a year-round schedule work would require a bigger commitment from the district than merely designating one school as a guinea pig. Sunset Park will have a better chance of achieving its goals if its schedule is in sync with other schools.
We also think the idea of an Accelerated Studies magnet school is a useful option in the district. And it may spur other alternatives in the future.
As part of the effort to reconfigure Sunset Park, the district also will form a committee to create a school choice policy. The policy, which will take effect for the 2009-2010 school year, would establish rules for when students can choose to attend a school outside their attendance zones.
The committee also will explore ways to expand choice options in the district. One option might be to open enrollment at schools with international baccalaureate programs. This effort might also offer greater opportunities for foreign language studies, art and music classes and other special interest courses.
We hope the new curriculum will boost Sunset Park and open the door to expanded choices and diverse classes in other schools as well.
Transition of Sunset Park to accelerated learning school could open other options.