Cane Bay parents came out to the Berkeley County School Board meeting on Jan. 14 to voice their opinions about the district’s plan to cap attendance at Cane Bay and transport the overflow students to Westview.
Many parents voiced their concerns during the citizen comments. They told the board about issues that families in the area may face in light of the attendance cap and rezoning, as well as students who are going enter the school next year.
Linda Cecconello voiced her concern about the amount of time that the students would be on the buses and the effect that it would have on their education. She estimated that the students spend nearly an hour and a half on the bus going both ways if they are transported from their home to Westview.
“The purpose of a school board is to educate our children, make them flourish and prosper,” Cecconello said. “Sitting on a bus for approximately an hour and a half each way does not do that.”
Mark Treen voiced his concern on different groups that could be impacted by the rezoning. He presented the board with four groups that could be profoundly impacted by the rezoning and transporting to Westview, children of faculty, foster children, military children and children with physical and emotional limitations.
Treen read a statement from a parent in the Cane Bay area who is in the process of welcoming a foster child into their home and they are concerned that the transportation to Westview might make it difficult for the foster child to connect with the children in their school and in the Cane Bay neighborhood. Treen said we should take special care to make sure that children like that should not have to move schools because life makes them have to change many times already.
“Let’s help their lives be less chaotic and less transient when we can please,” Treen told the board.
Military families came made their worries known as well. Jamie Sheppard, whose husband is currently serving at Joint Base Charleston with the Marine Corps, said that her son 9 year old son has lived in 3 different states and two different countries. She said that when they moved to the Lowcountry they chose to live in the Cane Bay area specifically.
“We purposefully chose to live in the Cane Bay area for the schools,” Sheppard said.
She explained that the Cane Bay schools are one of twelve that have a Military Family Life Counselor who can work with children on issues specific to the military.
Sheppard also explained that the Cane Bay area is good for military children because the area is small and can create a sense of familiarity and that is very important to military children.
“I am here to make sure that in the three years that we have a tour of duty here in Charleston that my son does not have to make another transition,” Sheppard said.
Cane bay parents also worry that showed worry over the impact that the rezoning and transportation of students would have on the community of Cane Bay.
“By bussing these children out 10 miles away we are fracturing the Cane Bay community,” Elizabeth Hackman explained.
Allyn James was instrumental in getting the parents and guardians organized to come and speak to the board on January 14th. She explained that this is far greater than just a Cane Bay issue and that rapid growth in the area can affect all other schools.
“It could be you next year,” James said.
James said that the school board needs to begin working with county commissioners and looking at other realistic options for Cane Bay.
“I think this is a critical emergency,” James explained.
Board members voiced their concern for the parents and explained that the children always come first in their decisions. They also said that they are working hard to come up with the best options for the children in the county.
“We are doing everything humanly possible to try and get things moving,” Ann Conder told the crowd.
David Barrow spoke to the parents and told them that the district is aware of the problems and that the parent’s concern is understandable.
“I agree wholeheartedly with the impassioned pleas from parents,” Barrow said. “We are not blind to the fact that we have issues.”
Barrow also explained that it is difficult for schools districts to get finding for schools to be built and that they are doing everything they can as a board to find the best solution and no decision is made without proper research and effort.
“We don’t take our decisions lightly,” Barrow said.