By Al Dozier

The Lexington-Richland District 5 School Board January 14 approved an enrollment freeze at Chapin Elementary School as well as a continued freeze at Lake Murray Elementary School.

The “Phase Two Freeze,” which will go into effect January 22, means new enrollment will be halted. New applicants will have the opportunity to enroll in three nearby schools: Ballentine Elementary; River Springs Elementary; and Dutch Fork Elementary. Magnet schools which are available to students throughout the district are also an option.

“Students and families who will be moving into the Chapin Elementary and Lake Murray Elementary attendance zones after January 22, 2019 will be reassigned to a school with available space and capacity for additional students,” Chief Planning and Administrative Officer  Michael Harris said in a statement released after the board meeting.       

An enrollment freeze was initially approved a year ago at the over-crowded Lake Murray Elementary School. Students were channeled to Ballentine Elementary and Chapin Elementary. But Chapin Elementary has since become filled to capacity.

The district will provide transportation to the alternate schools for students in need.

The enrollment freeze is expected to be lifted when a new elementary school planned for the area is completed. The district has already approved design and construction contracts for the new school, which will be located on Amick’s Ferry Road.

Board member Ken Loveless voted against the freeze, expressing concerns that the district’s plan was distancing students from their schools.

“We’re moving people a long way,” he said.

The district has scheduled a public information meeting for January 24, on the plans for the new school. The meeting will be held from 6 pm to 7:30 pm at the Center for Advanced Technical Studies in Chapin. 

In other action the board approved a new policy that provides academic credit for high school students participating in marching bands. The credit will apply as a physical training course.

The district will have to get state approval but that’s not expected to be a problem as schools throughout the state are seeking the same credit.

The board heard a proposed capital budget for the 2019-2020 School Year, which is actually part of a five-year plan, estimated to cost $10 million a year.

New projects included in the budget include a new softball press box and concession stand, and remodeled training room at Irmo High School. Most of the improvements will be related to heating and air conditioning, and roof work at different schools. Some $3 million will be dedicated to technology improvements.

During the discussion on the budget, board members expressed individual concerns about various different problems observed in school facilities

Those problems included lighting in the Chapin High School parking lot, appearance problems with rest rooms at Irmo Middle School, and the Irmo High School sign facing St. Andrews Road. Board member Jan Hammond said the sign keeps collapsing, and is a “sore spot” at a popular location.

District officials said those problems will be addressed.

The board received a proposal recommended for the 2019-2020 school calendar.

The first day of school would be Aug. 21, and the last day June 5. Winter break would run from Dec. 23 to January 3. Spring break is scheduled April 13-17.

During the public participation period, District 5 resident Paul DuPre voiced concerns about “fanatic attacks” on the district from some people in the community.

“We need to rise above this witch hunt,” he said.

Former board member Kim Murphy once again called on the district to have a forensic audit to assure taxpayers that the district is doing a good job.

The board approved several new policies recommended by the state. They included measures dealing with special education, foster care, student absences and tobacco use.

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