Johns Island Education Updates

The Charleston County School District (CCSD) Board of Trustees approved a list of "Mission Critical Action Items" in support of the District Strategic Plan, Clemson Equity and Inclusion recommendations, AdvancEd recommendations and Shared Future scenarios.

District 9 (Johns and Wadmalaw Islands) was one of four teams seeking to gather input from parents and community members over several months and presented recommendations on Mission Critical Actions to the CCSD Board on June 24, 2019. The District 9 facilitators, Andrea Casey, Jaime Cooper and JICA Board Member Michelle Faust, presented the highlights of feedback from community, parent, and teacher/staff input.

During all of the mission critical discussions, parents and community members were clear on their desire for a K-12 path for quality public education in District 9. The recommendations presented as a result of Johns Island and Wadmalaw community input were:

1. Collaboration

The District 9 community desires a visibly higher level of collaboration between all schools, the district, and the community at large. The sense of community, neighborhood schools, and the idea of students progressing though elementary, middle and high school, all within schools located throughout the District 9 attendance zone are priorities that permeated conversation throughout the Mission Critical process. Choice schools, changing population, and a negative perception of District 9 schools are a part of the many factors that threaten the reality of this philosophy.

2. Communication

District 9 families desire to feel welcome within the five schools throughout the district. They desire for information to be readily available and easily accessible in both English and Spanish. They further desire to be greeted by bilingual support at each of the five schools. There should be, at each of the five District 9 schools, full-time, dedicated front desk support. The individuals filling this position should be:

  • Friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable of the District 9 schools and area.

  • Required to complete Cultural Competency and Racial Equity training.

  • Knowledgeable in student safety.

  • A direct communication link to parents and should collaborate appropriately with all District 9 schools.

  • Be bilingual (this requirement could be prioritized within the elementary schools and then built out to the middle and high school if necessary).

3. Elementary Schools & Early Childhood

The District 9 community desires schools to have the appropriate wrap around student supports and resources needed for students to focus on academics and for teachers and administrators to be able to focus on their prioritized responsibilities. Deeper saturation of support services is needed:

  • Increased integrated Student Supports, Social Emotional Learning and mental health services need to be delivered.

  • A full time guidance position is needed at Frierson.

  • An assistant principal is needed at Angel Oak.

  • Increased nursing services needed at Frierson and Mt. Zion.

  • Spanish instruction offered at all five schools

  • Recommended 3 day/2 day split for Spanish instruction between Mt. Zion and Frierson.

  • Current 3K and 4K programs should remain intact. These programs should grow to be full day, offered in conjunction to each elementary school, and be accessible to all District 9 residents.

  • Early childhood education should adhere to district zoning policies noting those might not apply to head start.

  • District 9 is one of the fastest growing geographical areas within Charleston County. Based on district data, if all students living in District 9 attended schools within the zone, the exiting space would be well beyond capacity. While the Mission Critical Action Group acknowledged Angel Oak Elementary will be at capacity and removing the 3K option could free up physical space, it is the community’s desire to maintain the existing 3K program (even if portable buildings need to be placed). The district has presented numerous studies on the benefits of serving 3K and 4K, which affirms the community’s desire to keep the existing structure serving three-year-old students in District 9 elementary: Head Start at Mt. Zion, Montessori at Frierson, and a fee-based (with scholarships) program at Angle Oak.

  • Information needs to be released to the community regarding district plans for a larger elementary school, the location of such school, and how the opening of such school would impact zoning throughout District 9.

  • If/when the new elementary school is constructed and opened, a plan to effectively serve the 3K and 4K needs of District 9 will need to simultaneously be developed. Options, such as continuing the program at all elementary schools or utilizing other, consolidated facilities will need to be examined.

4. Haut Gap Middle School

The District 9 community desires clarity and transparency to exist as it pertains to course offerings, the magnet program, zoning and choice regarding the middle school. Furthermore, the community desires for the middle school to be of the highest academic rigor, however, and at the same time, limited to students within District 9. Increase rigorous curriculum options for District 9 students, expanding options to all middle students. Recommendations include:

  • Haut Gap Middle School to house 6th through 8th grade students only.

  • Zoning for Haut Gap Middle School restricted to District 9 residents

5. St. Johns High School

The District 9 community deeply desires for the high school to exist as a neighborhood school for District 9 families and for the academic rigor, course offerings, and availability of extracurricular activities to increase. Develop a plan that spans three to five years with a goal to increase enrollment by 25% at the high school.

  • Equitable opportunities need to be a priority at St. Johns. High School. The opportunity for curricular and extra-curricular options should not be limited by the size of the school. These opportunities should be implemented as a part of the overall growth strategy.

  • In staying true to the neighborhood school philosophy, high school graduation ceremonies for St. Johns High School students need to take place at St. Johns High School.

We would like to thank all of those who attended input sessions to develop the recommendations.

We are still awaiting feedback on any actions or next steps from CCSD on the recommendations presented.

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