Fort Mill to rezone elementary schools

FORT MILL -- Anticipating at least 450 new students next year, the Fort Mill school board is planning to redraw elementary school attendance lines.

Dale Holden, the district's education consultant, is starting to work on the project, he said at a school board meeting Monday. It will be approximately 11 months before the board votes on the new lines. Between now and then, Holden will collect data and attempt to predict population trends to create attendance zones that will last another six years.

"One thing I feel is important is that we do a lot of ground work involving folks in the knowledge of the process and allow those that are interested to provide input," Holden said. "We always get creative and valuable input."

Two new schools opening in 2009

The new lines will be necessary when the district's sixth and seventh elementary schools open in August 2009. With two more schools possibly being approved in a March 2008 referendum, another set of attendance lines could be needed for the 2011-2012 school year.

One of his aims is to minimize the number of students who would have to change schools between 2009 and 2011, Holden said, adding some schools may have "higher than average" student populations for a year or two. Those populations will even out after the second pair of schools opens, he said.

"None of them will be over capacity, though," Holden said.

The district should not commit to specific attendance zones for 2011 when it chooses the 2009 zones because a lot can happen in two years, he said. He pointed to the recent growth near the Springfield schools as an example. When Springfield Elementary opened, most of the growth was occurring in other parts of the township; now, it is one of the fastest-growing areas, Holden said.

Ample capacity expected

Recently, the district's elementary school population has been growing by 450 students a year, Holden said. It doesn't take long to reach the 900-student capacity in the district's elementary schools, but once all nine elementary schools are open, Holden said the district should have enough capacity to last six or seven years -- if the growth rate remains relatively stable.

Also at Monday's meeting, the board received recommendations for 10 new high school courses to be offered beginning next fall. The courses include: portfolio art for students who are taking or planning to take AP art; business law; animated computer production; biomedical science II; equine science; and new honors courses for language arts, math, science and social studies, according to Director of Middle and Secondary Education Marty McGinn.

The board unanimously approved all the courses.