School Board to Save Funding, Rolls Out Redistricting Plan

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Some Pickens County students may find themselves in a new elementary school next year, according to a new district plan. The Pickens County Board of Education approved a tentative plan to redistrict certain areas of the county Thursday night during its monthly meeting. According to Superintendent Dr. Ben Desper the plan will primarily affect elementary schools.

Desper said the plan is needed to retain state funding.

“Right now,”

he explained,

“we have Tate Elementary School, where the enrollment has fallen below what the state will fund for certain areas.”

He went on to say that due to the fall in enrollment the county will have to start paying more from local money (taxes), rather than receiving state money to fund the operations of Tate. As such, he said the county intends to increase the enrollment numbers at Tate by redistricting. According to Desper, approximately 125 students will move to Tate from Riverstone Subdivision, Ivy Ridge, the area south of 108, and a small part of the opposite side of Highway 515.

Desper admitted, though, not all students will move, adding that the county will let the parents have the option of retaining their current situation. He said the county expects 85 percent of the students in this area to comply, noting that 50 percent of parents currently drive their children to school. By shifting student enrollment, Desper explained the move is an effort to balance the population of the county’s elementary schools. The plan will strive to make Harmony, Hill City, and Jasper Elementary approximately the same size.

“This allows Harmony to have a little elbow room,” he said, “parents won’t be in lines long picking up kids in the afternoon—they’re going to be down about 100 students.”

The superintendent feels the new plan will allow Tate Elementary School to be more self-sufficient. Also, in the plan 24 more students will go to Hill City Elementary School.

During his presentation, Director of Operations Rick Little further explained the plan, noting some students in the Bent Tree area will go to Jasper Elementary, while Big Canoe will mostly remain in its current district.

“We want to give people the opportunity to think about it and make suggestions,”

Desper said. The superintendent explained the tentative plan will be presented to the public for 30 days. The county will post redistricting maps in each school, in addition to posting a map on the district website. He also said the central office will send out a letter and a road list to all students affected by the new plan.

“The parents will still have options under House Bill 251, which is the school choice bill, and it’s actually going to be expanded this year,”

Desper explained,

“So parents will have as much choice as they’ve ever had in Pickens County since it was an open district.”

Following the presentations, the board approved a tentative redistricting plan. The board will allow a 30-day public review of the plan before final approval during the March meeting.

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