Education

Here’s where Fort Mill district leaders want new high school attendance lines drawn

The Fort Mill school district administration has made its choice to determine which high schools students will attend.

On Tuesday, the school board heard the administration’s recommendation for the new attendance lines needed with the opening of Catawba Ridge High School next school year. It joins Fort Mill and Nation Ford high schools. The school board will make the final decision.

“This is just administration’s recommendation,” said Chuck Epps, district superintendent. “We have two weeks left of a five-week comment period.”

On Oct. 1, three options were presented in a public presentation. The recommendation Epps gave on Tuesday wasn’t exactly like any of them.

Instead it’s a modified version of the third option presented that night. The district recommendation puts homes south of Tom Hall Street and east of U.S. 21 Bypass at Catawba Ridge. It also sends students there from a sliver of property between U.S. 21 and the western part of Harris Road.

Students southwest of the Gold Hill and Pleasant roads intersection would go to Fort Mill. That school would include Tega Cay and Baxter. It would include a little property east of S.C. 160 West, including Hamilton Place, and a jut down into the Catawba Ridge attendance line from Jones Branch down to Sutton Road.

The Nation Ford attendance lines largely would be north of Tom Hall Street and S.C. 160, and east of Pleasant Road. It includes Springfield, Regent Park and Paradise. Some property west of Pleasant is included, up to the Eppington South and Spicewood subdivisions.

With the new lines, an estimated 2,066 students would attend Fort Mill High next school year compared to 1,904 at Nation Ford and 817 at Catawba Ridge. Incoming seniors would remain at Fort Mill or Nation Ford. All three schools each have a capacity of 2,400 students.

“The main goal for any of these plans is we hope it would last a while, have some longevity,” Epps said.

Epps said the recommendation should give all three schools eight to 10 years before hitting capacity.

Epps said Wednesday afternoon he felt the initial enrollment at Fort Mill High was too high with the option that staff ultimately modified to create its recommendation. The Dobys Bridge Road corridor and Spratt property along Fort Mill Parkway are “where all the growth is going to be” in coming years, he said.

While Catawba Ridge could start smaller, in time it could grow considerably. Existing or approved residential developments are more than four times higher in the Catawba Ridge zone (4,604 residences) than at Fort Mill (1,163). Nation Ford would have 2,738.

The recommended option would send 677 Nation Ford and 140 Fort Mill students to Catawba Ridge the first year. It would send 271 non-seniors from Fort Mill to Nation Ford.

The latest version is based on initial and further study since the Oct. 1 public event, and community feedback, according to the district.

Tuesday’s recommendation isn’t final. The public can submit comments via a link on the district website through close of business Oct. 31. A map of the proposed lines also is on the website. So far, about 2,600 emails or other communications shave been received since Oct. 1, Epps said.

“They have to look at the numbers,” he said. “Take emotion out of it and make the decision that will create the plan that will last the longest. To me it’s a mathematical exercise.”

The school board will finalize lines with a vote, scheduled for Nov. 6.

By land area, Fort Mill is the smallest district in the state. High schools can need 100 acres for school facilities, sports fields and related needs.

“At the end of the day, currently we have two of the top high schools in state,” he said. “We will now have three of the top high schools in the state.”

John Marks: jmarks@fortmilltimes.com; @JohnFMTimes
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