MYRTLE BEACH — Members of a Carolina Forest site committee voted Tuesday to recommend a possible attendance line change that would send more students to Black Water Middle School, acknowledging it’s not a perfect plan but the best one available.
The district has been examining facilities for about two years seeking to ease overcrowding in some schools by utilizing available space in others. Carolina Forest’s Ocean Bay Middle School currently is bursting at the seams with students and has no room for expansion, officials say, while Black Water has room to spare.
Committees from Loris, Conway and North Myrtle Beach also have considered changes for their attendance areas, and the change for Carolina Forest is closely linked with that of Conway, which would pull more of Black Water’s students to Whittemore Park Middle School and leave even more available space.
The primary change proposed Tuesday would be for students who currently attend Carolina Forest Elementary School and go on to Ocean Bay Middle. The line change would shift all of those students, except those who live in the Avalon neighborhood, to Black Water. The students living in Avalon would continue to attend Ocean Bay.
There were too many students in Avalon to shift them all to Black Water, and the district didn’t want to split an entire neighborhood, said Joe Burch, planning coordinator for the district.
District officials said any change in schools is difficult, but they are trying to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money. The change is not a done deal – the group’s recommendation must now go to a districtwide panel, which will put together final recommendations for the school board. The board, however, is not obligated to adopt any plan that the group eventually submits.
“Someone is always going to be on the far end of the attendance zone,” Burch said. “What we bring you is what we think is best for the overall Carolina Forest community.”
Talk of an attendance line change in the Carolina Forest area has been met with resistance from some parents, who say the trip to Black Water will take too much time from their children’s day and who don’t want their main school route to be U.S. 501. Others have gone so far as to say that Black Water doesn’t measure up to schools closer to Carolina Forest Boulevard, a sentiment that was refuted by committee member Tracy Huggins, who has two children who have gone through the middle school.
“To hear some of the things being said about the school is heart wrenching,” Huggins said. “I will fight for that school till the day I die because it is a wonderful school. ... Please don’t bash the school.”
Committee members asked about other options for Carolina Forest schools, but none of them worked as well for a long-term solution to the problem, Burch said. He reminded the group that Black Water has always been part of the Carolina Forest area and that those students would still be attending Carolina Forest High School, which meets the school board’s requirement of keeping the area’s identity intact.
“I think that needs to be communicated back [to people in Carolina Forest] … This represents a dramatic shift for their families,” said committee member Darla Domke-Damonte, who said there will have to be a mindset change about how big Carolina Forest really is. “I don’t know what other alternatives would use facilities that taxpayers have already paid for … What else would we do?”
Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.