Parents Want More Info on New School

Public participation was heavy at the Richland 2 School Board meeting at Longleaf Middle School Tuesday evening, with several Lake Carolina residents speaking of the need for more information before they could cast a vote for their choice of elementary schools. Elementary School #19, opening next fall, is a short walk from Lake Carolina Elementary School. The District is considering offering kindergarten through second grade at Lake Carolina and third through fifth grade at the new school. The second consideration would be to open both schools with kindergarten through fifth grade. Lake Carolina Development President David Tuttle has solicited input from Lake Carolina residents (even those without children in the schools), residents of the Ashland neighborhood who border Elementary #19 and other families currently in the Lake Carolina attendance area. Because some students currently attending Round Top Elementary will be affected, the District Planning Department will contact those parents for their feedback. At the next Board meeting, the attendance lines for each proposal, logistics for walking, bus routes, start times and the educational benefits of one school over the other will be presented.

Last year, in an effort to streamline fees, the Board evaluated activity fees for middle and high school students to ensure that they were uniform across the district. Additional fees for the older students (lab fees, activity fees for career and technology classes, athletic participation fees, music/band fees, etc.) were also evaluated. A high school parent expressed concern that cheerleader participation fees were $700 and after a month of culinary classes and the payment of that regular activity fee, her daughter was asked to pay $56 for a uniform and the following week to purchase specific shoes. These unexpected fees, she said, make it difficult for a family on a budget.

The proposal to equip security personnel with pepper spray was tabled after three meetings when it became apparent to Board members that there could be no guarantee that the spray would not be used on a student.

The importance of third-graders reading at grade level is one of the greatest indicators of achievement in high school and beyond. Jeff Potts, Director of Accountability & Evaluation, told the Board that up until third grade, students are learning to read and that after third grade, they are reading to learn. A number of issues were discussed in this regard. While 86.2 percent of students in third grade read at grade level, 14 percent are not. Eighty percent of those not third-grade proficient receive free or reduced price lunch. Poverty has a great impact on student achievement and is a focus in the district goal of learning. While a larger number of students in the district are reading in recent years, reading at grade level has gone down for fourth- and fifth-graders. The factors for this decline are being assessed by Potts and his staff, and a report is expected at the next Board meeting, Oct. 22 at Pontiac Elementary School.

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