Horry County School Board faces ‘tough decisions’ on overcrowding issues

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – On Monday night, Horry County School District leaders talked about overcrowding issues at several schools and ways to address the problem. Board members at the Facilities Committee meeting said only six schools are currently under 80% capacity.

“We have to make some tough decisions,” said Chairman of the HCS Facilities Committee, Neil James.

Lakewood Elementary and Ocean Drive Elementary were two schools specifically mentioned by the district’s Facilities Director, Mark Wolfe. He said each school has reached capacity in the building and has no more room for mobile classrooms.

Board members said the issue could stem from too many parents choosing to transfer their kids to schools outside of their assigned attendance area. Horry County Schools allows for “school choice” with the approval of the Student Affairs office.

No decisions were made at Monday’s meeting but board members talked about capping the number of students transferring to certain schools if they are at capacity. Members also talked about making students wait a full year before transferring into any of the newly constructed schools.

“I believe this school district should stay ‘school-choice’ to whatever degree possible,” said School Board Chairman, Joe DeFeo. “We understand there are problems with that, but when you start doing something to solve attendance issues in one zone, if you apply that rule universally, you could end up affecting another one negatively.”

DeFeo also said he wants to make sure any student can take advantage of programs that may only be offered at certain schools and won’t be denied because of capacity issues.

The discussion of overcrowding is part of the “Five Year Plan,” which the board and staff members have been debating for weeks. Before any decisions are made, facilities staff members are compiling a priorities list for schools with the most need and should have it complete by the end of November.