Pre-kindergarten classes currently being held at South Effingham Elementary School will move to Sand Hill Elementary for the 2015-16 school year.
The Effingham County Board of Education voted 5-0 last week to move the two classes of 22 students each from SEES to the less-crowded Sand Hill campus next year.
“Sand Hill does have the classroom space available,” said Effingham Schools Superintendent Randy Shearouse. “They’ve been one of our slower-growing schools for a long time now.”
South Effingham Elementary began the current school year with an enrollment of 695 students, an increase from 653 the previous year. Sand Hill, the district’s smallest elementary school, decreased from 550 students to 529 in that same timeframe.
Shearouse said South Effingham Principal Anna Barton voiced concern that space could become even tighter next year if additional teachers need to be hired to accommodate the school’s growth.
“South Effingham Elementary is running out of room,” Shearouse said. “They grew quite rapidly this year, and if (Barton) does add a teacher or two for next year, she would need those two classrooms that pre-K currently operates in.”
By deciding on the move now, Shearouse said, the school district can get the word out prior to the April 17 pre-K lottery drawing. Parents who want their children included in the drawing for the 2015-16 pre-K program may call their zoned school to schedule a pre-registration appointment.
More information about pre-K and kindergarten registration is available at www.effinghamschools.com.
South Effingham and Sand Hill elementary schools are about 8.5 miles apart. Parents will have the option of dropping off and picking up their pre-K students at Sand Hill, or letting them ride a shuttle bus that will run from South Effingham to Sand Hill in the morning and back to SEES in the afternoon.
“So if you had a child that you were dropping off at South Elementary and then you were going to work, you wouldn’t have to then drive all the way over to Sand Hill,” Shearouse said.
School officials looked into other options for housing the classes, including reopening the pre-K center at Marlow Elementary and having it as the hub for Marlow, Sand Hill and South Effingham students. However, that was deemed to be “fairly costly at this point,” according to Shearouse.
Marlow currently has four classrooms available, “but I feel like they would run out of space sooner than later there,” he said. Available space was also a hurdle to moving the SEES pre-K classes to South Effingham High.
Shearouse cited cost concerns again when school board Vice Chair Troy Alford asked if a trailer could be set up at SEES instead of moving the pre-K classes. Chairman Lamar Allen added that a trailer would be only a temporary fix.
“Then what happens if they grow again next year? Are you going to have another trailer?” Allen said. “I think you have to look at it for a longer period of time than one year.”
Board member Beth Helmly, speaking from “having taught in a trailer,” opined that erecting temporary classrooms is “just throwing money away.”
Board cancels trip
In other business, the school board canceled plans to tour Evans Elementary School in Columbia County. The layout of Evans Elementary, a two-story school, was one of the models presented to the board last month as a possible design for the new Rincon Elementary School.
“After some feedback that I’ve received, it doesn’t seem like there’s very much interest at the school level about having a two-story building,” said board member Vickie Decker. “So if they don’t want it, I don’t want to waste time.”
Helmly, who along with Decker had proposed the visit to Columbia County, said, “That’s fine. There’s no need to waste money on a trip.”
The new Rincon Elementary will be built on 41 acres the school system owns on Fort Howard Road. Plans are to start building the new RES in January 2016 and open it in August 2017.
The school board voiced its support of a one-floor design, similar to the one used for Blandford, Marlow and Springfield elementary schools. Whereas those schools were built for 750 students, the new Rincon Elementary will be designed to house 1,000.
“We can get to work” on the design, said Slade Helmly, executive director of administrative services for Effingham Schools.
The K-5 school will be paid for entirely with local funds. The school system received cost estimates of $14.4 million for the one-floor design and $14.9 million for the Evans Elementary model.