Florence District One parents fight for 5th grade to be added to elementary schools

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – Two schools within Florence School District One hope to add fifth graders to the student body next school year.

Parents from Carver Elementary School and Delmae Elementary School say they’d like to see their current 4th graders stay at their respective schools for another year. Right now, both elementary schools conclude after fourth grade.

The Delmae Elementary School is under construction and expected to be complete in August, just in time for the next school year.

“You can see from the outside the walls are up,” says Roy Ann Jolley, Delmae Elementary principal. “Concrete is up.”

Jolley says after the school board decided to postpone the grade reconfiguration plans, parents of fourth graders began to ask if the new school could expand to include fifth graders.

“We are ready in terms of being physically ready and anxious about it,” confirms Jolley.

Jolley says while the school may be able to house an additional class of students, the final decision is not up to her.

“I told them that was not a decision that I could make,” explains Jolley. “I will support them in that decision, but that would be a decision that the board would have to make.”

The Association of Teachers and Parents sent a survey home to all fourth-grade parents asking parents if they would like to see their children stay at the elementary school for another year.

Out of 143 fourth graders, 97 parents returned the survey with fewer than 10 against the idea of adding fifth grade to the school.

“The hope is that if we can keep our fifth graders here, we have a year to prepare them for the transition to middle school,” explains Lisa Young, ATP secretary and 4th grade teacher at Delmae Elementary.

Young says her child went to Delmae through 4th grade, then Moore Intermediate School, and then to Sneed Middle School. She argues that having another year to develop socially would benefit the students.

“When you think about kids going into the 5th grade, they are 10 (years old). They are still children,” states Young. “Maturity-wise and socially they are not ready to be thrown into that [middle school] environment.”

Jolley says the new elementary school was built and budgeted to fit up to 1,200 kids, including 5th graders.

“Our building will be 5th grade ready next year,” confirms Jolley. “The classrooms are there. The furniture will be there.  The technology will be there.”

School staff and the improvements board are all in favor of including fifth grade next year.

“Fifth grade is the elementary age,” argues Jolley. “Fifth-grade students are elementary students. So, being in the elementary environment is a plus for them.”

With the grade reconfiguration plan on hold, students will still switch schools two more times before high school if the plan is finalized next year. Students will go to middle school for three years, then to high school.

Carver Elementary Assistant Principal Josie Little says the right now the school has just under 600 students but the school can house up to 900 students.

Little says parents at the school went before the board to ask if students could continue through the 5th grade.

Rhett Hughes is one of the parents in favor of including 5th grade.

“The less transitions the better. The hope is by adding 5th grade here our daughter can stay,” explains Hughes. “The hope is that Florence School District 1 will move to reconfigure schools. So, by the time she moves on to the next level. Which will be Moore for her. That will be her middle school then she’d only have one transition to high school.”

The parents that are not in favor of Delmae and Carver including 5th grade cited reasons like closeness to home or siblings at the middle schools, which makes it easier for pick-up after school.

The board requested more information about both schools and is set to discuss the changes at the next board meeting in May.