Asking Questions and Doing Things

Meeting will focus on superintendent’s proposal for ‘schools of choice’ in Bluffton

As a parent of two children in the Bluffton School District, I am enrolled in the School Messenger Service, an e-mail communication link utilized by the district to distribute information quickly and efficiently to all parents.

This morning I received the following notification from Jim Foster, Director of Communications for the Beaufort County School District.


BEAUFORT – Bluffton-area residents are invited to a special Beaufort County Board of Education meeting on Sept. 10 that will focus on Superintendent Jeffrey Moss’ recommendation to build two new Bluffton schools aimed at accommodating rapidly growing student enrollments.

The 6 p.m. meeting will be held in the auditorium at Bluffton High School.

At a recent Board of Education Finance Committee meeting, Moss proposed a new elementary school to serve grades K-8 and a new combination middle/high school to serve grades 6-12.  The new facilities would be “schools of choice,” meaning that parents would elect to enroll their children there.  The curricula at both schools would be driven by the desires of parents and the community.

At next Tuesday evening’s meeting, members of the public will be able to voice their opinions to Board members after the superintendent presents his recommendations.

Under Moss’ proposal, children from throughout the district would be able to take advantage of programs at both of the new schools, although students from Bluffton and Hilton Head would be given preference.  One possible curriculum option for the elementary school, Moss said, would be a Montessori option.  The middle/high school might focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) as well as college- and career-ready programs.  Students would be able to graduate with an industry credential and as much as two years of college credit, Moss suggested.

The district already owns property that could be used for both schools.  Property for the elementary school is on Davis Road just off the western end of Bluffton Parkway.  Property for the middle/high school is in the New Riverside area south of May River Road.

For the elementary school, the district already has about $25 million in funds from a voter-approved 2008 bond referendum.  The elementary school could house about 800 students.  The new middle/high school would also cost about $25 million, which could be raised without a tax increase by using money that all South Carolina school districts are allowed to borrow each year without a voter-approved referendum (districts can borrow up to 8 percent of the county’s total assessed value each year).  The new middle/high school could house as many as 1,400 students

After the new schools open, Bluffton Middle and McCracken would revert to traditional 6-8 configurations and Bluffton High would revert to a 9-12 configuration.  Currently, Bluffton Middle serves grades 6-7 while McCracken Middle serves grades 8-9.  This arrangement was undertaken three years ago to ease overcrowding problems at Bluffton High, which now serves grades 10-12 rather than the traditional 9-12.

Moss recommended that development of both schools begin as quickly as possible so that they can open in late 2015 or early 2016.  Board of Education members will discuss the superintendent’s recommendations in the coming weeks.

District projections indicate that Bluffton Middle school is about 35 students shy of reaching its 1,000-student capacity and is forecast to grow to 1,312 students by 2018.  H.E. McCracken Middle School is already above its 909-student capacity, with a projected enrollment of 1,533 by 2018.  Bluffton High School, which currently serves 1,109 students, has a capacity of 1,434 and a projected enrollment of 1,621 by 2018.

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