New developments creating a challenge for school leaders planning to combat crowding in Aiken County schools

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AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) – The Aiken County Board of Education was thrown a curve ball, as new details about projected growth were revealed during a presentation on Saturday.

During several town hall meetings, school leaders shared the results of a $60,000 dollar study and the recommendations to relieve crowded classrooms.

However, nearly 40 percent of parents aren’t on board with the 4 suggested changes.

  • Reassign students in Trolley Run Station from Byrd Elementary, Leavelle McCampbell Middle and Midland Valley High to Aiken Elementary, Schofield Middle and Aiken High.
  • Expand Midland Valley High School.
  • Expand overcrowded elementary schools for future growth and safety.
  • Build an elementary and middle school on a donated parcel of land in North Augusta.

Still, school leaders have to prepare for an unforeseen explosion of new developments in one area, that’s already overcrowded.

“In our recommendation we believe this is the most logical move now, knowing what’s coming on Bettis Academy Road.” District Superintendent Dr. Sean Alford said.

School leaders got a taste of the projected growth they are going up against, in the form of solid, concrete building permits.

“That was something we really didn’t have access to early in the process, but now we were able to have the comprehensive list of everything that was requested in 2017.” King Laurence, Aiken County Chief Officer of Administration and Human Resources, said.

The newly revealed facts weren’t sitting well with one school board member.

“It was not discussed at the town hall meetings, so therefore I need to make sure that the community hears the new information that we received.” School board member Wesley Hightower said.

School leaders learned nearly 700 building permits were issued last year. Most of those for along Bettis Academy Road, which resides in district’s Area 3.

This will impact the newly built Leavelle McCampbell Middle School and the over-capacity Byrd Elementary.

However, earlier this year the school board voted to transform the Adult Learning Center into an elementary school, which will offer relief to Byrd Elementary.

Still, state law doesn’t allow for schools to be built on project growth, but leaders say the new information works in their favor.

“So that allows the school board to have hard evidence, hard information to make those decisions about where attendance boundaries should be.” Laurence told WJBF NewsChannel 6.

Despite a lack of support on the recommendations to fight the population imbalance, school leaders are set to make a decision later this month.

The next Aiken County Board of Education meeting is on Tues., Jan. 9th, 2018 at 7 p.m.Count on WJBF NewsChannel 6 to bring you the latest on this developing story. 

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