Rezoning (December 11)

The Beaufort County Board of Education has approved changes to school attendance zones aimed at alleviating overcrowding in the fast-growing Bluffton community.  The Board made no changes to attendance zones at schools in northern Beaufort County.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  The attendance zone changes in Bluffton approved by the Board will take effect at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year – but only if they are approved by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR).  Under a voluntary federal desegregation order approved in 1970 and revised in 2010, OCR must approve any changes to Beaufort County student reassignments.

This special “Rezoning” section of the district website features detailed maps that will let Bluffton-area parents determine where their children will attend school for the 2019-20 academic year if OCR approves the changes made by the Beaufort County Board of Education on December 11.

On the maps, Board-approved changes to school attendance zones are outlined in black and numbered.  To see details on a change, find the number in the map and match it with the number in the map key at lower right.  The map key shows the school students in that area currently attend, and also the school students would attend based on the revised attendance zones.

Background

The Board’s attendance zone changes are designed to help accommodate rapidly growing student enrollment in Bluffton.  In the last two years alone, Bluffton schools have enrolled nearly 800 additional students.

In April 2019, Beaufort County voters rejected a plan that would have expanded two Bluffton schools (River Ridge Academy and May River High) and constructed a new school.  The failure of that referendum meant that school enrollments needed to be adjusted in Bluffton to move students from overcrowded schools to schools with room to accommodate them in mobile classrooms.

An initial rezoning proposal in June was revised in August and followed in September by a series of town hall meetings aimed at beginning public discussions about possible student reassignments.  These meetings were “listening sessions” for school district officials to hear concerns and ideas from parents and the public at large.  Board members adjusted the original proposal in October based on parent feedback from those public forums.

Attendance zone changes approved by the Board on December 11 are designed to avoid further rezoning for at least three years.  Some Bluffton students would be moved to schools with room to accommodate mobile classrooms.

Fourteen mobile classrooms were installed this year (eight at River Ridge Academy and six at Pritchardville Elementary).  As many as 54 additional mobile classrooms could be installed over the next three years on the campuses of May River High, M.C. Riley Elementary and Bluffton Elementary/H.E. McCracken Middle.

On December 11, the Board approved the attendance zone changes in the revised proposal, with the addition of modifications affecting about 120 students who live in Moss Creek, Buckingham Landing and The Gatherings.  Those students will continue to attend Hilton Head Island schools but would be rezoned for Bluffton schools with the changes approved by the Board tonight.  However, the Board included a provision that would allow parents in those neighborhoods to continue sending their children to Hilton Head schools if they provide transportation to and from school each day. 

Future development in Bluffton

On February 27, 2018, the Town of Bluffton made a presentation to the Southern Lowcountry Regional Planning Board that showed maps of the areas of Bluffton under Planned Unit Development (PUDs) agreements. These maps and corresponding graphs show the number of commercial and residential units allowed to be built, and also shows the status of build-out as of February 2018. This information is helpful in understanding not only recent growth in Bluffton, but also continued growth.  Ninety-two percent of Bluffton is governed by PUD agreements, and the current build-out for those PUDS is at 35 percent.

Resources

Beaufort County School District 2019-2023 Five Year Plan 
Town of Bluffton Growth Management Department
Southern Beaufort County Regional Plan