Hundreds of peninsula parents railed against district plans to close and relocate schools as part of a countywide cost-cutting measure. One man was escorted out of the auditorium for a brief time by city police and Superintendent Nancy McGinley threatened to cancel the meeting if the crowd didn’t calm down.
“These are our children and we have a right to be concerned about our children,” one mother yelled out. “Only black schools are closing. No white schools are closing.”
The district is planning to shutter Fraser Elementary School and Charleston Progressive Academy, angering the black community. Plans to move the Charleston Charter School for Math and Science and potentially divide Buist Academy into two schools angered other parents.
District officials tried to make it clear that they didn’t want to do any of this, but pointed to an up to $20 million deficit next year.
“We’ve cut everything we can,” said board Chairwoman Toya Green. “We’ve cut the fat. We’re down to muscle.”
Cutting costs means consolidating schools, shifting students from half-full or failing schools to other campuses. The district has pointed to declining enrollment on the peninsula — down more than a third in the past 10 years.
“You see a pretty severe enrollment decline, and yet we have the same number of school buildings,” McGinley says.
The district’s plans also include opening a career and technology education center, either at Burke High School or a stand-alone campus at Fraser Elementary, answering calls from parents for more career training.
Aside from the urgency of the budget situation, McGinley stressed the added importance of replacing several downtown schools that are not prepared to take on an earthquake. The comment spurred a mass of laughter in the crowd.
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