Angry parents packed the Fort Mill school board meeting last week to voice displeasure with proposed new elementary school attendance lines.
Several groups of parents from various areas of the township spoke out. Most questioned why residents in their neighborhoods aren't assigned to 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. An estimated 200 parents showed up at the Oct. 6 meeting.
“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 Sept. 29 public forum where the lines were unveiled.
“We are concerned with the extracurriculars and the strength of the PTA,” said parent Joseph McGowan prior to the meeting. He also lives in the Regent Park area.
McGowan said Regent Park area parents worry 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 said they want to see a more equal distribution of that population throughout all Fort Mill Schools.
Under one of the options presented, 24.6percent 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 would have the lowest with 7.9percent, 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 those residents would drive past Sugar Creek Elementary on the way to Springfield Elementary.
Fort Mill schools Superintendent Keith Callicutt denied that charge. He said he and the board will consider all comments from parents before deciding which set of lines to adopt.
“Do I expect there to be a fourth option? No, I don't,” Callicutt said after the Oct. 6 meeting. “But we can tweak the ones we have.”
District officials will accept public comments through Oct. 19. The school board is expected to vote on the proposal Nov.3.
The Rock Hill Herald contributed to this story.