North Myrtle Beach panel opts for attendance lines, school reorganization

vgrooms@thesunnews.comSeptember 18, 2013 

North Myrtle Beach could have three schools realigned as early as next fall so that each serves students from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade if a site committee recommendation is approved.

The North Myrtle Beach attendance area has no existing attendance lines, and all students attend the same schools, but North Myrtle Beach Primary School (pre-kindergarten through first grade) and North Myrtle Beach Elementary School (grades two and three) are overcrowded, while North Myrtle Beach Intermediate School (grades four and five) has room to spare.

The committee, made up of area parents and school officials, voted Tuesday night to recommend having attendance lines so that students can stay with one school through fifth grade and even out the student population at each building. The group had asked Horry County Schools officials in June to draw up suggested lines they could consider that would keep demographics even across the board.

“The attendance boundaries are pretty close for the minority population at each of the three schools and the poverty rate,” said Horry County school board member Harvey Eisner, who represents North Myrtle Beach. “The parents raised those questions and were very, very satisfied.”

The idea of drawing attendance lines in the area was discussed years ago when the area was less developed, and there were more transportation challenges around the attendance area, which stretches from Barefoot Landing to Brooksville and inland near S.C. 905, said Renea Fowler, principal at North Myrtle Beach Primary.

“I think now we’re better able to have a diversified split,” she said. “This plan has a lot of positives.”

One positive would be having a mix of ages in one building, as older students often can mentor the younger ones, Fowler said. The plan also would divide the responsibility for the area’s youngest students between three schools, giving some relief to those at the primary school, which has 875 children, some as young as 3 years old, who need constant supervision and who must be individually tagged if they ride any of the 17 buses that only carry primary-age students, she said.

The plan also could be more convenient for families with children in multiple grades - especially those with transportation issues – by giving them only one school to deal with, rather than two or three, Fowler said, and teachers could see more of their students’ progress if they have them in the same building for a longer period of time.

The committee’s recommendation must now go to a districtwide panel that will consider possible changes from across the district’s nine attendance areas. The panel will submit a final recommendation to the school board, although the board is not obligated to adopt any plan.

If North Myrtle Beach gets the go-ahead, some infrastructure work would be needed at each school to accommodate different age groups – such as adjusting the heights for water fountains – but very little change would be needed with classrooms, Eisner said. District officials told the group that the schools could be ready to transition by next fall.

Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.

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