What: Beaufort County Board of Education meeting
When: 6 p.m. today
Where: County Council chambers, administration building, 100 Ribaut Road, Beaufort
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For opponents of a plan to shutter Port Royal and Shell Point elementary schools, the importance of tonight's Beaufort County Board of Education meeting is clear: Speak now, as the saying goes, or forever hold your peace.
The school board won't vote on the proposed closures until a work session Friday. But the board does not typically allow public comment at work sessions, and Chairman Fred Washington said he doesn't expect to make an exception.
Tonight's meeting represents residents' final opportunity to influence board opinion in a public session.
Lisa Kindwall, chairwoman of the Shell Point school improvement council, started a "Save Beaufort Schools" group on Facebook that now has about 1,500 members. She also is among those marshaling protesters for tonight's meeting, urging them to bring signs and wear red to show solidarity. About 100 people have confirmed on Facebook they plan to attend, she said.
Another county resident took out an advertisement in Sunday's newspaper calling for community turnout tonight.
Supporters have contacted the county's Statehouse representatives, including Sen. Tom Davis and Rep. Shannon Erickson, both Beaufort Republicans, in hopes that legislators will lend their support.
Kindwall doesn't think the closures are inevitable and said board members remain open to persuasion.
"I don't think everybody's made up their mind yet," she said. "I think there are a few people who are still available for conversations with the public, and I think a show of support from these two schools is really important."
Each person who asks to speak is allotted three minutes, and board policy is to hear from the public for 30 minutes. Public comment often runs longer, but Washington said if dozens of people request to speak, the board might ask each group to pick a few representatives to talk.
The school board's final vote is expected during a work session that begins at 10 a.m. Friday at district offices at 2900 Mink Point Blvd. in Beaufort.
Follow reporter Kyle Peterson at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo .