Fort Mill Times

New school reassignment option crafted

A flood of criticism from parents has Fort Mill school officials rethinking three student reassignment proposals that could move more than 800 students from their current middle schools.

The district is crafting a new proposal that likely will incorporate elements of one or all three of the options unveiled last month.

Middle school attendance lines are being redrawn to populate Fort Mill's fourth middle school, an unnamed campus at the southern end of the district that will open in August 2010. Elementary and high school attendance zones would remain the same.

It's not clear what the new attendance zone plan will look like because it's still in the works, Superintendent Keith Callicutt said Friday. Callicutt said he expects to work on the new proposal through Wednesday and present it at a school board meeting on Oct. 19. The district will take public input on the new plan for two weeks before the school board votes on Nov. 9.

“I think it's just a little tweaking here and there,” school board member Scott Patterson said. “That's the reason we put it out there and asked for input. That proves we're willing to listen.”

School board member Michael Johnson said he expects the new option will calm parents' frustration over the three original proposals.

Since launching the reassignment process last month, school board members and district leaders have received a steady stream of e-mails from parents split over how to shuffle students.

On one side are families who favor Option 1, which would create a feeder system by funneling all students from Fort Mill and Springfield middle schools to Nation Ford High School and nearly all students from Gold Hill Middle and the new middle school to Fort Mill High School.

Proponents say feeder systems offer consistency for students by keeping friends together through difficult middle and high school years. Feeders, they say, also keep together extracurricular activity groups, such as sports teams and marching bands.

Option 1 supporters also include families in the Springfield neighborhood who like having their children attend nearby Springfield Middle. Of the three current proposals, Option 1 is the only one that would keep them at Springfield; the others would send them to Fort Mill Middle.

The most vocal opponents of the feeder plan have been families from the northern part of the district who, under Option 1, would have to send their children about 10 miles south to the new school off Brickyard Road, passing middle schools closer to their homes.

Early morning and after-school traffic jams, they said, would mean hour-long drives. Those families favor Options 2 and 3, which are largely similar and would keep their children at Springfield Middle.

While past reassignments have been contentious, this process has been civil, school officials said.“The feedback on this redrawing was excellent,” Johnson said. “This has been a lot of common sense.”Patterson agreed.

“Parents have very valid concerns,” he said. But “of course we're not going to be able to make everyone happy.”

To offer input on Fort Mill schools' student reassignment proposals, go to www.fort-mill.k12.sc.us, call the district at 548-2527, or visit the main office at 120 E. Elliott St., Fort Mill.

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