In Charleston County Constituent School districts 4 and 10, where the greatest concentration of African American students in the county and City of Charleston respectively attend schools, the 2016-17 school year will require focused attention among parents according to school board officials.
In both constituent districts, attendance zones will change. And though the two districts are vastly different in many ways, they they each have some disparities in resources available to black students.
North Charleston Constituent Dist. 4 is the county school district’s largest of the eight constituent districts. Dist. 4 has some 30 schools.
More black students attend schools in Dist. 4 than in any other constituent district.
However disparities in Dist. 4 are stark. Of its five high schools, three are predominantly black – North Charleston High, Garrett Academy of Technology and R.B. Stall.
Two are predominantly white, the Academic Magnet High School and Charleston County School of the Arts.
North Charleston High ranks among the state’s lowest performing high schools while Academic Magnet High ranks among the nation’s best high schools.
Constituent Dist. 4 board chair James Perry said new attendance zones that will be determined this year will impact everything from the allocation of resources to transportation. One of Perry’s greatest concerns is the transformation at Burns Elementary on Dorchester Road. The school’s getting a new facility and students are being relocated to two different campuses.
County School board member Rev. Chris Collins, who represents Dist. 4, said redrawing attendance zones will be an issue parents should watch. But he added that parents also must advocate for more resources to reduce teacher turnover and to improve student reading and math skills.
None of the district’s traditional neighborhood schools which serve predominantly black student populations are rated excellent, Collins said. By contrast, all of its specialty schools that serve predominantly white student populations are rated above average or excellent, he said. He agrees parents should pay particular attention to the transition at Burns Elementary.
West Ashley Dist. 10 schools are more racially integrated. Rezoning will be an issue to watch in West Ashley as well, said constituent board member Henry Copeland. But West Ashley’s issues are more about overcrowding schools and distances students may be forced to travel. One example he said is students who live in Maryville now attend Springfield Elementary more than five miles away when St. Andrews Elementary is only two miles away.
A new facility for Stono Park Elementary School is another issue that should be on parents’ minds, Copeland says. Stono Park, the district’s only predominantly black school, also is its only school in need of replacement, he said.
Dist. 10’s county school board representative Michael Miller said despite those glitches, West Ashley schools still offer parents some unique qualities. Its schools are the county’s most racially diverse, all its schools are rated average or higher and its three charter schools, two magnet schools and Montessori school provide excellent school choice.
Despite those amenities, there remains a student achievement gap between black and white students, Miller admits, “but compared to the other constituent districts, there are no apples to apples comparison,” he said.