For schools, community growth involves more than just the influx of new pupils. They get there first.
Currently, more pupils are registered at a district’s smaller, older elementary school in Clover than it can accommodate. According to Clover School District Director Sheila Quinn, Bethany Elementary School is not the most likely location to experience that issue.
“We would have never thought this, maybe five or six or seven years ago, that our Bethany Elementary School zone would be the first place we ran out of space,” When the school board discussed the matter on March 13, Quinn stated. “But that has occurred.”
In February, the Fort Mill School District announced enrollment freezes at three campuses. The York School District regularly advocated for increased construction impact fees to assist in paying for expanding school needs, but to no avail thus far.
Bethany can accommodate 408 pupils. Four hundred thirty students attend it.
School districts frequently use the inauguration of new schools to redraw attendance boundaries. But Clover is impatient.
Tuesday, the Clover district conducted a town hall for the families affected by the proposed student transfer to Larne Elementary School. The community will hold a public forum at its board meeting on March 27 and a town hall the following evening in Larne.
A decision might be made in time to inform parents before spring enrollment for the fall if the board meets on April 10 as scheduled.
Quinn asserted that Clover’s recently approved bond vote proves that growth is occurring. Yet problems at Bethany might not be unique.
“We are going to be looking at all of our schools’ enrollments a lot over the next several years,” Quinn said.
Plans For New Students
There is little doubt that expansion is taking place, but the Clover district is experiencing a different surge.
Massive new subdivisions like Massey, Waterside at the Catawba, and the newly developed Elizabeth area were all brought about by Fort Mill Parkway’s whole opening. Each one contains at least 1,000 proposed dwellings.
New schools were built along the bypass, including Catawba Ridge High School, Forest Creek and Banks Trail Middle Schools, Riverview, River Trail Elementary Schools, and more.
To serve the expansive Mason’s Bend development, Kings Town Elementary School opened just across U.S. 21. Around Fort Mill Parkway are grouped many of the 20 newest schools that make up the Fort Mill district.
High and elementary schools have existed on the Bethany campus in Clover since the late 19th century. Even though there are new housing projects like Shepherd’s Trace and Tart Road, much of the increase is due to privately sold land or family lot subdivisions.
There may be shocks when homes are built in a significant development without giving homeowners years of warning.
“It’s a little more difficult to track growth in Bethany,” district COO Mark Hopkins told the school board. “These happen a lot of times without our knowledge until that student shows up at school.”
Bethany has recently grown by 10 to 15 students each summer. Work is now proceeding to add four more classrooms, which would increase capacity to 480 pupils. The earliest the work will be finished is in the middle of the following academic year.
Hopkins stated that while switching attendance lines is never convenient for families, a fix is required.
“We wanted to impact the fewest number of students possible,” Hopkins said.
Bethany To Larne’s plan
The last time Clover switched lines for capacity considerations was twelve years ago. Then, pupils moved from Crowders Creek Elementary School to Bethel Elementary on the district’s Lake Wylie side.
Bethany is at capacity, but Larne has a 710-student maximum enrollment and has room to spare.
According to the current proposal, Larne would receive a portion of the Bethany attendance zone east of S.C. 161 and south of Faulkner Road.
The change would impact all or a portion of Beamguard, Lawrence, Nell Jane, Brian, Kehl, Pfaff, and LH Hicks roads. A decision will be made in early April that will specify the precise number of pupils who will be affected.
With the anticipated additional classes, keeping such spaces at Bethany may be feasible. But, it would prevent further expansion, which is what authorities expect.
Would A Freeze Work For Clover, Too?
The three attendance zone freezes in the Fort Mill district will continue through the end of the school year and be addressed again this summer, according to Joe Burke, public information officer for the community.
When enrollment is frozen, new pupils who ordinarily enroll at a school based on their address attend a district school with ideal space instead.
For those pupils, the district provides transportation to and from the schools. Fort Mill made its choice with the knowledge that new elementary and intermediate schools are in the works.
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Burke claimed that while building more schools is the ideal solution to the capacity problem, as a temporary measure, a freeze is preferable to widespread redistricting.
“That would impact thousands of students in the district and would have to done multiple times over the course of several years,” Burke said of redistricting. “The freeze option allows the district to minimize the disruption while managing the growth until new schools come online.”
There are still plans to expand the Clover school system. A second high school will be built after a $156 million bond vote was approved last October.
In 2021, a more powerful bond that included a high school and an additional elementary school failed. Hopkins stated that the district might choose Bethany as it prepares to open a new elementary school.
“This is a move that can give us the breathing space that we need to get us to that next step,” Hopkins said.
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