Fort Mill Times

Attendance lines assailed by Fort Mill parents

Angry parents packed the Fort Mill School Board meeting Monday night to voice displeasure with new elementary school attendance lines proposed last week.

Several groups of parents from various areas of the township addressed their concerns to the board. Most questioned why residents of their neighborhoods aren't assigned to the schools closest to them. The largest contingent lives in the Regent Park and Emerald Lake areas. Others included a group of Tara Plantation residents and parents who live in the Sutton Road area, south of Baxter.

"The attendance lines should be drawn equitably in order to provide the greatest opportunity to the greatest number of children," parent Annemarie Collins told the board. "One could speculate that extra effort has been made to keep those communities that stay at Springfield Elementary at the current percentages concerning ethnicity and socioeconomic levels by carefully selecting which communities move to the new school and thereby producing disproportionate percentages."

Collins' group, made up of parents in and around the Regent Park area, is not concerned with the quality of education that will be provided at Sugar Creek Elementary, she said. Rather, they are concerned that under the three sets of possible elementary attendance lines, Sugar Creek will end up with a higher percentage of students in the free and reduced lunch program than any other elementary school except Riverview Elementary, according to statistics provided by the school district at a public forum held last week to unveil the lines.

"We are concerned with the extracurriculars and the strength of the PTA," Joseph McGowan said in an interview prior to the meeting.

The group worries that many parents of children in the free and reduced lunch program, already consumed by work and struggling to pay bills, won't have time to volunteer for school events or with the PTA, which raises money to pay for things the district can't afford, McGowan explained. They want to see a more equal distribution of that population throughout all Fort Mill Schools.

Under one of the options presented, 24.6 percent of students at Sugar Creek Elementary would qualify for the free and reduced lunch program, Riverview Elementary would have the largest free and reduced lunch population at 36 percent. Gold Hill Elementary will have the lowest with 7.9 percent, followed by Pleasant Knoll Elementary at 9.1 percent and Springfield Elementary at 14 percent.

McGowan and Collins think it's a case of special treatment for the Springfield neighborhood because residents of that neighborhood will drive past Sugar Creek Elementary on the way to Springfield Elementary.

Fort Mill Superintendent of Schools Dr. Keith Callicutt denied that and said he and board members will consider residents' comments before any final decision is made.

"Do I expect there to be a fourth option? No I don't," Callicutt said following the meeting. "But we can tweak the ones we have."