School district plans to reconfigure schools, holds meeting to address concerns

Parents raise concerns over school district's reconfiguration plans

MARION COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The Marion County School District held one of two forums on the district’s plans to reconfigure schools.

Parents and students packed the Creek Bridge High School cafeteria Tuesday night to learn more the district’s plans to merge the school with Mullins High School starting in the 2019-2020 school year.

They also plan close Brittons Neck Elementary permanently and move those students, along with other lower grade levels, to the Creek Bridge building.

Both Creek Bridge High School and Brittons Neck Elementary remained close while the rest of the district reopened at the end of September after Hurricane Florence.

On Oct. 3, students from Creek Bridge returned to class while Brittons Neck Elementary students were split between Easterling Primary School and Marion Intermediate School because of the current building’s damage from Hurricane Florence.

However, Kandace Bethea, the district’s superintendent, said that is not the main reason for the reconfiguration and that the district has considered rearranging schools before the storm.

She listed a decline in enrollment, saving costs, underutilized buildings and opportunity gaps as the reasons for the reconfiguration.

The superintendent said the population in the county has declined 5 percent and high school enrollment is down 2 percent each year.

Creek Bridge only has 144 students compared to Marion High School’s 682 and 401 students at Mullins High School.

In a letter sent to parents, a task force of school district staff, teachers, parents and other has been formed to examine the merge of the two high schools, along with the replacement of Brittons Neck Elementary students.

Bethea admitted the plan was a tough decision, but said sometimes tough decisions have to made for the betterment of the students.

“Our enrollment is dropping, our base student cost, we’re not getting the funds that wound normally come in because of those declining enrollment numbers and so some decisions are driven by the numbers the courses and the staffing," Bethea said during the meeting.

Parents' concerns ranged from transportation and merging athletic teams to rising seniors wanting to know if they’ll be able to graduate as a Creek Bridge Warrior.

One mother, Latorious Owens, whose children attend Brittons Neck Elementary said she’s against the plans for both schools. Owens claims since the elementary school has been closed there’s been a lack of communication from school district officials.

"It’s stressful. We pass the school house every morning and for my kids to say ‘oh mommy I wish my school was open’… that hurts my heart. My kids want to be a Brittons Neck Elementary, my kids don’t want to go to Marion. It’s not right to them and they shouldn’t be forced to,” Owens said.

The plans will go before the school board for approval at their meeting next Tuesday.

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