Enquirer Herald

School board may alter CMS plans

CLOVER -- The Clover School Board may reconsider its plans on Monday when it decides the fate of the current middle school.

In September, the board presented a plan that had Clover Middle School housing half of the district's sixth- through eighth-graders. The other half would attend the new middle school in Lake Wylie. Clover Junior High would then be used to expand the high school and for other programs.

The plan, however, wasn't embraced by many parents.

Superintendent Marc Sosne met with about 20 parents last week. They argued that the district pulled a "bait and switch," referring to a promise by school leaders during the 2006 bond referendum to use the junior high facility for the middle school.

Sosne called it a "communications issue" that happened in the wake of changing conditions.

The district was dealt a major financial blow with the state's passage of Act 388, which eliminates using residential property taxes to fund school operations in exchange of an extra penny on the dollar sales tax.

"That new tax structure changed a lot of our plans," Sosne said. "And then you add to it the economic crisis we're seeing now and it's a domino effect. The board makes the very best decision for the district based on these factors."

The board had a three hour work session on Friday, when some board members expressed a desire to change the original plans and send middle school students to the junior high school.

"I believe this school board made a commitment to people," said Joe Gordon, who read directly from public information provided in 2006. "If we don't live up to that, not only will we not pass (a spring) bond, we won't pass the next one either."

The board hopes to pass a bond referendum in the spring that could be close to $60 million, which would include purchasing land for a high school and elementary school near Lake Wylie, and improvements to or expansion of the high school, junior high and Clover Middle School. Given the current economy, passing the bond would be difficult enough without hard feelings from broken promises on the last bond, some board members said.

"I'm really seeing the chances as slim to none of passing a referendum," said member Kathy Cantrell. "As I see this in writing, I think we need to stick to it."

In February, district leaders decided to keep Clover a one high school district with plans to expand the high school by using the junior high. That plan would increase the high school capacity from its current 2,000 to about 2,800.

But putting middle school students at the current junior high could cause problems for the high school. At the public meetings in September, Sosne said a new high school would be built, likely within about 10 years. By adding the junior high to the high school footprint, capacity would reach 2,800 and the district would begin planning for a second high school when enrollment reaches 2,300.

Without the junior high school, however, capacity is only 2,000. Current high school enrollment is 1,860 students, well within that 500-student margin at which Sosne said he would begin plans for a second high school in the original plan.

"If we use the junior high for another three years, yes, it slows down our conversion plan for the high school," Sosne said. "But if we pass another bond referendum and build a new middle school by August, 2001, we could make the high school situation work for another three years."