The Rock Hill school board will vote Monday on key choice proposals that include moving several groups of students to different schools and building a center for Montessori instruction.
Superintendent Kelly Pew’s recommendations, to be considered at Monday’s 6 p.m. board meeting, include moving Head Start from the aging Edgewood Center into The Children’s School at Sylvia Circle.
The school district leases the Edgewood Center on Russell Street to the federal Head Start program for $1 a year, but district officials said the building is in poor condition and the roof needs to be replaced.
Another recommendation calls for moving all the children in the Montessori choice program at the Children’s School to Ebezener Avenue Elementary School in a two-part move over the next two years.
School board chairman Jim Vining said the changes “are a step in the right direction, to getting us in a position where we can run the district more efficiently. I know a lot of people like the small schools, but the fact is that is not the trend.”
Board member Jane Sharp said the change is necessary “in order to support what our parents are asking for. They want to have choice in the kinds of programs our students are in. We are offering that.”
Pew also has recommended centralizing the language immersion programs offered at Ebinport, Richmond Drive and Rosewood elementary schools. However, that issue is still under discussion and is not scheduled for a vote.
The proposals to be considered Monday are:
▪ Moving the Head Start program for 271 children into The Children’s School building this summer. Pew wants to sell Edgewood Center, saying that spending $1 million or more on repairs isn’t a good use of taxpayer money.
▪ Moving children in third- to fifth-grade Montessori at The Children’s School to Ebenezer Avenue this fall, when an inquiry-based program would begin. Pew said the inquiry program allows the district to make sure students are learning state standards, a mandate beginning in third grade, while keeping student choice and other popular elements of Montessori.
▪ Spending up to $5 million to build a specialized center for Montessori instruction and to make renovations to the Ebenezer Avenue campus over the next year or more. The money would come from a district bond issue, Vining said.
▪ Moving children in 3-year-old to second-grade Montessori from The Children’s School into the new Montessori building during the 2017-18 school year.
▪ Rezoning about 120 children at The Children’s School who are not enrolled in the Montessori program to attend Belleview Elementary School this fall.
▪ Allowing students in a Science, Technology, Arts, Engineering and Math – or STEAM – program at Saluda Trail Middle School to choose to attend South Pointe High School in the fall. Pew has recommended developing a high school curriculum at South Pointe for students moving up from the middle school STEAM program.
Pew also has recommended moving the ParentSmart program on East Black Street into The Children’s School after Montessori students move out. She recommends demolishing the Black Street building.
Design plans for the Montessori center call for a 20,500-square-foot addition, or about eight classrooms, a new kindergarten classroom and about 3,000 square feet of administration office space.
Renovations to Ebenezer Avenue would include expanding the dining area and creating space for six classrooms to be dedicated to the school of inquiry.
Vining said moving students from The Children’s School to Ebenezer Avenue and Belleview allows the school district to operate one less elementary school and to have more students at two other elementary schools.
“I have said for years that Sylvia Circle and Ebenezer were too small,” said Vining. “We need to look at elementary schools that are 1,000 students, not 300 students.”
He added: “With costs today, with every small school we have, it restricts the amount of money we can spend on education because of the cost of running the cafeteria, overehead, staff. It makes it tough.”
Sharp said the move with choice schools is one way for the district to compete with other local education options, such as charter schools and private schools.
However, Sharp said the district also needs to raise achievement levels. “We’ve got to improve the performance of all our kids,” she said.
Board member Walter Brown said he believes the changes Pew recommended are good moves.
“I feel the district was kind of at a crossroads,” he said. “We were either going to move forward with some new thinking or we were going to sit still and be satisfied with the status quo.”
He said Pew showed a lot of leadership in recommending the changes and informing parents and others in a series of school meetings.
“It was an awful lot of work that went into making this decision by the administration,” he said. “There were a lot of parental contacts made through meetings at the schools. It’s one of the better, more transparent moves we’ve made.”
Jennifer Becknell: 803-329-4077