Ed. Tech relocation decision expected Tuesday

Published 6:14 pm Friday, June 21, 2019

The Beaufort County Board of Education will consider two options for the future of the school system’s alternative learning program during its meeting on Tuesday. The options include leaving the program at its current location on the campus of the former P.S. Jones High School, or relocating the program to its own wing at Southside High School.

The discussion of relocating the program is directly tied to an approximately $600,000 shortfall in the school system’s budget for the coming year.

Both options would include adjustments to staffing, with possible reassignments of faculty and staff to other schools throughout the county, as well as a shift to a blended approach to instruction including teachers, facilitators and online learning.

“These are students who would be going to Southside High School through the alternative learning program, which is part of the pathways program,” BCS Superintendent Matthew Cheeseman said of the second plan. “These are not people that have been dealing with guns and knives and other criminal activities. These are students who need additional assistance and students who need a great environment for learning.”

Community members heard both options during a community forum at the Beaufort County Ed. Tech Center Thursday, with many voicing concerns over the proposed relocation and the future of the alternative learning program.

Among the concerns shared by attendees were placing students back on a traditional school campus, community perceptions on the program, how Southside students might treat Ed. Tech students, finding ways to support these students outside of school and how the district would provide transportation to Southside.

One BCS teacher, Marie Freeman-Barber, said that there is often a misconception among students, teachers and administrators that alternative learning program students are troublemakers.

“I’m just worried about the alternative students,” Freeman-Barber said. “We don’t want them to feel alienated or mistreated, and that’s what happens. These children aren’t violent… most of them graduate and go on to school, to further their education or some kind of vocational training. My main concern is about the kids.”

Cheeseman, in turn said that goes back to educating the wider community what the alternative learning program is all about.

“Students in the pathways program are typically students who may have just fallen behind, had life issues, may have become homeless from a storm, may have had a family issue or illness, may have been pregnant or coming back,” Cheeseman said. “Something in their lives has changed, and they are still very capable of doing their work.”

As for transportation, Cheeseman said that the district was still working to formulate a plan that could accommodate all the students, including the ones who might otherwise walk to Ed Tech.

The Board will consider both options and is anticipated to make a decision during its meeting on Tuesday.