Carolina Forest parents fight possible school rezoning

In Carolina Forest Elementary's parking lot, parents gather to pick up their children and complain to one another about how Horry County Schools is considering rezoning their district.

"I moved here from New Jersey because of the school systems here in Carolina Forest," says Anne Marie Schippers. Her grandson attends Carolina Forest Elementary. "If I wanted my grandson to go to a different school, I would have went somewhere else."

The redistricting proposal would send a majority of kids who complete Carolina Forest Elementary to Black Water Middle School instead of Ocean Bay Middle School starting in the 2012-2013 school year.

Schippers' grandson is one of the kids that would be sent to Black Water. "I've heard nothing but bad things about Black Water," she says.

But Horry County Schools spokesperson Teal Britton says the proposal is just that, a proposal, and Black Water is not a bad school. "It's a quality school," she says. "Some of the emotion has gotten ahead of the process. As we look forward to the future building needs of Horry County, one thing we have to look at is schools that are at or over the capacity, in comparison to where we have schools that have vacant classrooms."

The county projects that by the year 2014, Ocean Bay Middle will be at 110 percent capacity and Black Water Middle at 62 percent capacity.

Britton says a shift in students is a more fiscally responsible move for the county, instead of building a new school or adding buildings to an overcrowded school.

But overcrowding is not what parents say is the problem.

"I don't care what they say about rezoning or overcrowding. I think, of their report being so low, they want to bring the good students," says Schippers.

In the 2010 South Carolina Annual Report Card Summary, Ocean Bay Middle ranked "excellent" in 2010, "good" in 2009 and "good" in 2008.

Carolina Forest Elementary parents like Terri Wykoff are comparing those rankings to Black Water Middle's, which scored "average" in 2010, "average" in 2009 and "below average" in 2008.

"We moved to this area for the school district and for the educational opportunity for my son," Wykoff argues. "Not only is he not going to get the same educational opportunity by going to Black Water, it's also going to bring our property value down."

Property value is a concern for all the parents, but none as much as Yvonne Merritt. She moved to the Carolina Forest neighborhood for the schools and is now moving her family to California. "It's frustrating," says Merritt. "I worried about property values dropping and not being able to sell my home at this time."

Horry County School Board Member Joe Defeo says he doesn't believe a shift in the district's lines would mean a drop in property value. "People may not realize that Black Water Middle is a already a part of the Carolina Forest school district. I don't believe property value is going to change. It's going to be a good school, and Black Water has got a good principal right now."

He assures parents when the issue is brought up at school board meetings in July or August, their voices will be heard. Defeo says the board is still a long way from making a decision. But, he says, because of Carolina Forest's growth over the years, something will be done.

"T his just the very beginning," says Defeo. "It's not this, specifically, this rezoning that has to be done, but something has to be done sooner or later.

"L ast year, we picked up 500 children in Carolina Forest. This year, 700," says Britton. "Part of growth is consistent change. As long as you are growing as rapidly as Horry County is growing, attendance lines will have to be fluid to some degree."

If the rezoning is passed, Horry County parents will still be able to send their kids to whichever school they choose, but must bring their child to that school each day. A bus route will not accommodate a student's wish to go to a school outside of their district.

But those with students who would be shifted to Black Water from Carolina Forest Elementary say it isn't fair to the children.

"They want to use the students from this school to make their scores better," says Schippers. "Why should the students have to suffer because, I believe, the teachers are not doing their jobs over there?"

The Carolina Forest Civic Association is holding a community meeting at the HTC Building about this issue Wednesday night starting at 6pm.

Do you think the possible redistricting is to relieve overcrowding to to even out test scores? Let us know.