Florence School District One Board votes to table K-5 reconfiguration

Concerned parents and teachers overflowed into the lobby of the Florence School District One offices Thursday as Superintendent Dr. Randy Bridges addressed reconfiguration plans. (News13's Matt Parris)

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – Florence School District One board members heard from parents opposed to a plan to change attendance lines for three schools in the district.

In a unanimous decision, the board voted to table that plan, which would add fifth grade to the current K-4th grade model at Delmae and Carver Elementary Schools. But parents and teachers from Moore Intermediate said the plan would have a drastic impact on their school.

Robert LeMaster has three children in Florence One schools and said the plan to move the fifth-grade students to other schools just didn’t make sense to him.

“My main concern was really the overall benefit to the district,” LeMaster explained. “There would only be limited benefit for some places but we’re gonna have some taking away of resources from other schools.”

Supporters said the plan was born out of recent discussions on district-wide reconfiguration, aimed at getting students out of mobile classrooms and moving to a true 6th-8th grade middle school model.

“We might be creating more problems than we’re solving,” LeMaster quipped.

A handful of teachers and parents like LeMaster spoke up during the public comment period Thursday, worried about the financial and social impact of such an attendance change.

Superintendent Dr. Randy Bridges told board members the cost of this change could top $132,000, not to mention the loss of funding if Moore Intermediate suddenly lost around 250 students.

Bridges reported as many as 12 teaching positions would be lost at Moore, as well as the loss of Title I money–the federal government’s way of holding schools accountable.

“We’ve got a lot of problems that need to be addressed,” LeMaster said. “We just want to see that the board is taking these issues seriously and that they want to move forward as a whole.”

After hearing several similar complaints, the board decided such a drastic change had little upside when compared with the likely loss of funds, teachers, and resources at Moore Intermediate.

“I think the parents presented factual information that maybe the board wasn’t aware of,” LeMaster said. “It was really great to see really just how quickly they all realized, ‘Hey, maybe this isn’t the best time to move forward with this decision,'”

Board chairman Barry Townsend reiterated Thursday that it’s unlikely any reconfiguration plan would go forward for at least a year. The board will take that time to study other ways to get to that true middle school model.

Until then, Dr. Bridges said the new Delmae Elementary is on schedule to open its doors for the 2017-18 school year.