Fixing Ocean Bay overcrowding may mean shifting sixth graders

Something has to be done to fix overcrowding at Ocean Bay Middle School and the answer may be shifting one entire grade of students to other schools.

Ocean Bay was designed for fewer than 900 students and now has more than 1,200.

English classes at the school are held in the library and health classes in the auditorium. The school's administrators have to be creative with a school that's at 135 percent of its capacity.

The head of the Carolina Forest Advisory Board, tasked with coming up with a solution, says something has to be done about overcrowding at the school, and soon.

"We're not seeing a decrease, we're seeing increases," said Lorraine Mallon, the board's president. "And from things from our cafeteria, to the bathrooms, to the gymnasium, we don't have the space. And basically what we need is space."

The advisory board met Thursday to discuss a range of options, from shifting the school's eighth grade to Carolina Forest High School, to making the Academy for Arts and Sciences into a fifth and sixth grade school.

There are challenges with all the options, and Horry County school board chairman Joe DeFeo says building an addition onto ocean bay wouldn't work either.

"We can't complete these modifications in the time allotted during the summer months, so part of that school or all of that school would be closed down. that becomes almost an impossibility," said DeFeo.

The option that received the most attention would involve moving Ocean Bay's sixth grade to three nearby K-5 elementary schools, along with redrawing attendance lines, so Carolina Forest Elementary wouldn't become overcrowded.

Principals of those schools say that might be a good option, but it'll take more than just shifting a few teachers around.

"When you get more children, then by requirement, you have to have more positions, so it could be adding an assistant principal, it could be adding another guidance counselor, it's adding books to the library," said River Oaks Elementary principal June Moorhead.

DeFeo says the school board needs to get moving on the issue soon, because it'll take time to make changes and time is running out.

The school board will consider the overcrowding issue at its December 16 meeting.