Shell Point Elementary closure, student reshuffling plans receive federal OK

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Shell Point Elementary School has received one of the final checkoffs to close next year, and many other classes around the county will soon shift schools.

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has approved the Beaufort County School District's decision to close Shell Point Elementary School next school year and make changes in student assignments to various schools.

The school board voted to approve the changes in August, but OCR's authorization was also required under a desegregation plan that the district has operated under for 40 years.

In a letter received by the district, OCR approved the school board's decision to:

  • Close Shell Point Elementary, with most students being reassigned to Broad River Elementary (effective 2012-2013);
  • Reassign fifth-graders from Shell Point Elementary, Broad River Elementary, and Shanklin Elementary to Robert Smalls Middle School (effective 2012-2013);
  • Reassign students from the Mink Point neighborhoods to Beaufort Elementary for grades PK-4, Robert Smalls Middle School for grades 5-8, and Battery Creek High School for grades 9-12 (effective 2012-2013);
  • Reassign students from the Laurel Bay area to Whale Branch Elementary and Middle Schools (effective 2012-2013);
  • Reassign students in the Rose Hill neighborhood from Okatie Elementary to Bluffton Elementary (effective 2013-2014);
  • Reassign students in the Old Carolina neighborhood and students who live off Buck Island Road south of Bluffton Parkway from Red Cedar Elementary to Bluffton Elementary (effective 2013-2014); and
  • Transition Bluffton Middle School and McCracken Middle School to traditional grade structure of independent middle schools (each housing grades 6-8) (likely effective 2013-2014).

OCR is charged with ensuring equal access to public education to all races. If the school district does not comply with its desegregation plan, annual federal funding of about $24 million could be withheld.

In its most recent report to OCR, the district administration also noted that the Board of Education had approved the consolidation of St. Helena Early Childhood Center into the main St. Helena Elementary School building; the consolidation of James J. Davis ECC into Whale Branch Elementary School; the closure of some mobile classrooms at Lady's Island Elementary School and Hilton Head Island Middle School; and the closure of some classrooms at Battery Creek High School, Robert Smalls Middle School, Pritchardville Middle School, Coosa Elementary School, and Bluffton Elementary School.

"OCR determined that these proposals do not alter any attendance zones or change the demographics of the affected schools and therefore do not implication the Desegregation Plan," OCR's letter stated.

Prior to making its decisions, OCR representatives came to Beaufort County in October to meet with and answer questions from a group of parents and interested citizens.

The district said it will continue to monitor demographics to ensure compliance with the OCR agreement. 

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