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Community : Top Stories Last Updated: Oct 2, 2013 - 9:09:57 AM

What is the future for Daniel Island Schools?
By Elizabeth Bush
Sep 25, 2013 - 7:53:47 AM

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Rumors circulating about the potential site for a second new school to serve the Daniel Island and Cainhoy area have “complicated the process,” said Berkeley County School District Superintendent Rodney Thompson. But school officials are attempting to step up communications with parents and other stakeholders to stave off misinformation.
Dr. Thompson sent a letter to parents home with students at the Daniel Island School on September 18 to encourage families to engage in a “collaborative dialogue” about the future of the county’s public schools.
“I am deeply concerned about rumors circulating which are distracting resources, time and attention away from our mission,” stated Thompson. “…I strongly encourage each of you to refrain from sharing or using unofficial information about potential school locations and future attendance lines. These premature discussions are driving a wedge between friends, neighbors and colleagues.”
A long-awaited community meeting is planned for Monday, September 30, at 5:30 pm at the Daniel Island School (and 7:30 pm at Cainhoy Elementary/Middle School) to announce sites under consideration for the new facility. According to Thompson, the district hopes to form community committees at the sessions that will engage residents in the site selection and facility design process.
“These committees will be made up of residents in the Daniel Island and Cainhoy attendance zones,” he stated. “Further, the district will continue to provide updates via its website, Facebook, school newsletters, Board of Education meetings, and other resources as frequently as possible.”
Daniel Island parent Rindy Ryan created a “Keep K-8 on DI” Facebook page last month in an effort to give those wishing to see elementary and middle grades remain on the island a platform for discussion. The group currently has about 440 members. As evidenced by numerous posts to the page, many members of the group feel they were promised by Yes4Schools Campaign representatives that a vote in favor of a $198 million school bond referendum last November would bring a new middle school facility to Daniel Island. The Berkeley County School District has maintained that they never announced specific site locations prior to the vote (and have not since). Still, the banter on the page has remained focused on holding the district accountable. Members of the group have continually reached out to board members to express their thoughts on the matter and recently presented more than 500 signatures on a petition to the district. Ryan was encouraged by Dr. Thompson’s letter to the Daniel Island School families.
“I think the letter we received from our Superintendent, Dr. Thompson, shows strong leadership for our community,” she said. “I applaud him for recognizing and addressing the strife caused by uncertainty about our schools and for sharing information with the community about the process. I think the information he shared has alleviated some fears and given us the assurance we wanted that community input will be considered.”
Thompson is hopeful his recent letter to families, as well as the upcoming community meetings, will help put an end to rumor-fueled speculation.  
“More than anything they play on one’s emotions and rightfully so when it impacts the future of one’s child,” he said. “Hopefully at this point we have convinced the public that no decisions have been made and we look forward to starting the process on September 30th.”

Potential annexation
part of school discussions
The movement to pursue possible annexation of Daniel Island into Charleston County has been the focus of many of the “Keep K-8 on DI” group’s recent social media discussions. Ryan said she felt “confused, frustrated, angry and overwhelmed” after attending a September 12 meeting on the annexation process hosted by the Daniel Island Neighborhood Association and the Daniel Island Property Owners Association.
“I feel like we have taken a turn that may or may not work to our advantage,” she said. “In that process we have clouded the only important issue, our schools, with talk of bugs, money, trash, and county lines. So now we have neighbors pitted against neighbors with all this extra garbage when the only real issue is our schools.”
Rindy said she is conflicted about whether or not to sign a petition in support of moving the annexation discussion forward.
“The timing of all of this just doesn’t seem right,” she added. “If I want information to make an informed decision, I have to sign to authorize funding to those who will provide answers. If we don’t get enough people to sign, we don’t get the information we need to know if annexation is a good or bad thing.”
DINA President Dave Williams promised that answers to annexation questions will come once the required number of signatures is obtained.
“All the questions in the world don’t matter if we don’t get enough signatures,” he stated at the September 12 meeting at Bishop England High School. “Let it be very clear. Although your signature on the petition represents your initial support for annexation, it does not represent your final vote for or against annexation. That vote comes later in the process, and I hope that by collecting your questions and seeking all the answers you need to hear, we can vote on this and move forward together as a community.”
As of Tuesday, September 24, approximately 650 signatures had been collected on the petition (500, or 10 percent of registered voters are required before the annexation exploration process can begin).  Recognizing the importance of the school issue, Williams sent out an email to DINA members last week stating that “in no case” would the organization file a petition with the Governor’s office “until the BCSD has had the opportunity to present its plans for the present and future students of Daniel Island School” at the September 30 community meeting.
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