School consolidation approved for Hardeeville, Ridgeland

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School consolidation approved for Hardeeville, Ridgeland

By RACHEL HEATON
rheaton@islandpacket.com
Published Monday, June 11, 2012   |  592 Words  |  

The Jasper County School District will have only one middle school and one high school next school year.

The school board voted Monday to consolidate Hardeeville and Ridgeland middle schools and Hardeeville and Ridgeland high schools by Aug. 20.

The middle school will be on the Hardeeville campus; the high school on the Ridgeland campus. The schools had been split about five years ago.

Superintendent Vashti Washington has said consolidating the schools will allow more higher level courses for students while cutting costs.

Monday's vote comes less than a week after two consultants gave a presentation to the board about the possibility of consolidation.

On Wednesday, the consultants presented four options, all of which included offering more higher level courses and specialty programs -- such as an advanced science and mathematics curriculum.

The options were creating a specialty school; restructuring the district to have pre-kindergarten through sixth grade as one school and seventh through 12th grade as another; consolidating the middle and high schools; and rezoning attendance areas.

Two public hearings were held Friday and Sunday evening. District spokeswoman Shellie Murdaugh said about 50 people attended each meeting, along with some school board members.

On Monday, Washington recommended the schools be combined.

Washington said she had no choice after considering the issue for the past few months.

According to a presentation by district staff, the consolidation would lead to more math, science, electives and honors courses. It would also allow for more sports, school board members were told.

Washington said after the meeting that teachers in the district are qualified to teach the advanced courses.

School board members did not receive estimates Monday of how much money the district would save.

Washington said after the meeting that savings would be about $500,000, mostly in personnel cuts through attrition. At least 12 teachers have said they won't return to Hardeeville Middle/High School next year; Ridgeland's secondary schools have no openings, Washington said.

Estimates on students' bus-ride times were also not available, though parents and board members had expressed concerns children would have longer rides and have to wait for buses in the dark.

The district has also not reviewed the results of a parent survey on the issue; those results are expected to be given to the district Tuesday.

Some board members said the public hadn't had enough opportunity to comment on the issue.

"I don't feel like the parents were given their fair share," board member Barbara Clark said. "We had two meetings thrown together on the weekend with two-minute notice. Parents should have been given ample time."

But Washington said after the meeting that focus groups met in winter and there had been what she said was a yearlong discussion.

The consolidation was approved 5-3. Board members Randy Horton, Pamela Williams and Clark dissented. Board member Michael Hubbard abstained.

Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.

Related content:

Jasper schools official fights to be heard by his board; June 9, 2012

Dispute over Jasper County school consolidation plan reignites; June 6, 2012

Jasper County School District considers school consolidation plans; May 30, 2012