School board narrows attendance line options, plans first vote at Thursday's meeting

Cane Bay’s growth and overcrowding at Cane Bay Middle School and Cane Bay Elementary were the topic of discussion at the Berkeley County School Board meeting on December 10th.

Carol Beckmann-Bartlett, the principal of Cane Bay Middle School and Melissa LaBerge, principal of Cane Bay Elementary presented along with superintendent Dr. Eddie Ingram the issues that the schools are facing due to the overcrowding.

Cane Bay Middle School was built to house 900 students and currently holds 1397 students. Cane Elementary was built to house 892 students, but 1242 students currently attend the school.

Growth in the Cane Bay area has made it difficult for the schools to keep up with the number of students who are entering the district every year. Cane Bay Middle School is currently growing at a rate of 16% every year and Cane Bay Elementary is growing at a rate of 10% every year.

Both principals talked to the board about how the growth has affected the day to day operations of the schools. Beckmann-Bartlett said that nearly 1/3 of the teachers at Cane Bay Middle School are “floaters” which means that they do not have a classroom. These teachers instead utilize carts with all of the equipment they need for their lessons and move from room to room to make space.

At Cane Bay Elementary offices have been converted into classrooms. In the past the library was separated with dividers and one side was converted into a permanent learning space. All other modular space that could be used for classroom space was also already full. Related arts teachers no longer have classrooms and they move from room to room.

“We really have exceeded all of our options,” LaBerge said.

Cane Bay Elementary also began phasing out events such as having parents and grandparents coming to the school for events and lunches. LaBerge said that this is a problem because she wants all of her students to have the same experiences as other students in the district.

Beckmann-Bartlett explained that everything is being done to try and cope with the growth and overcrowding, but the problem is only getting worse.

“The inn is full the next ones will be in the manger,” Beckmann-Bartlett said.

Cane Bay parents also spoke to the board during citizen comments and voiced concerns about overcrowding.

Chuck Brunner said that the overcrowding is a problem and the district needs to think of a permanent solution and not just temporary fixes as there is more expansion to come in the area. He also said that the overcrowding is affecting the work occurring in the classroom as well.

“It is directly affecting the quality of the education the students are currently receiving,” Brunner said.

Mark Treen voiced concern about students having to leave the campus of Cane Bay Elementary and go to Cane Bay Middle School for classes.

Both Beckmann-Bartlett and LaBerge emphasized that the overcrowding has not affected the safety of their campuses and they are also able to meet all of the state’s requirements in spite of the difficulties.

There are currently plans to build extra wings at both schools Cane Bay Middle School is expected to be complete in 2020 and Cane Bay Elementary will be completed in 2021.

The school board then put in place a plan to reduce overcrowding at Cane Bay and it includes first putting a cap on attendance. Cane Bay Elementary’s enrollment will be capped at 1250 students and Cane Bay Middle School’s enrollment at 1400 students.

There will also be new procedures in place for capacity restrictions as well.

All new students will register at their school of residency. Each student’s completed registration in the district’s online registration system, Infosnap, will be time stamped to determine if the student will be enrolled in Cane Bay Elementary or Cane Bay Middle. This will help the district to track the student enrollment in order to cap it at the above mentioned limit.

Students who are not able to be enrolled at Cane Bay Elementary or Middle School, the district will provide transportation to the Cane Bay campus and then a transfer bus to Westview Elementary and Westview Middle School.

Both schools will maintain a waiting list and priority will be given based on the student’s registration timestamp above the enrollment cap. This means that if a student leaves Cane Bay Elementary or Middle School the students on the waiting list currently attending Westview will be placed into Cane Bay in the order in which they enrolled.

The district will also be employing a choice program for students in the Cane Bay attendance zone this means that the parents of students in that area can elect to send their student to another non-magnet Berkeley school that has space they are able. However, the parent is responsible to transportation to and from that school.

Ingram said that choice will be good for parents and it gives them the choice to send their child to the school of their choosing without forcing change upon anyone.

“I think this is the best option, the least painful option,” Ingram said.

The school board also approved for first reading the re-drawing of the attendance lines for the Cane Bay area to alleviate excess enrollment. The undeveloped areas of the Wildcat Tract and the undeveloped areas of Nexton will be moved out of the Cane Bay Elementary and Cane Bay Middle attendance zones.

Students who will live in the undeveloped regions of Nexton to Sangaree Middle and Stratford High.

Students who will live in undeveloped Wildcat Tract will be zoned to attend Whitesville Elementary, Berkeley Middle and a high school to be determined.