Students make mid-term move to
Mount Pleasant school helps
ease crowding at Pinckney Elementary
BY DIETTE COURRÉGÉ
The Post and Courier
MOUNT PLEASANT - For some Charleston County students
returning to classes Tuesday, it felt like the first day of school.
That was especially true at Laurel Hill Primary, the new
kindergarten through second-grade school in the Park West subdivision. The
new school's 792 students came from neighboring Charles Pinckney Elementary
School, which now serves third- through fifth-grade students
School leaders decided to add the $18.1 million
primary school to the district's 2000-04 building program in spring 2002 to
relieve overcrowding at Pinckney. This year, Pinckney had nearly 1,500
students, the largest elementary enrollment in the district, and 21 mobile
units housing two classrooms each. All of Pinckney's third through fifth
grades were housed in mobile units, and the lower grades were inside its
Laurel Hill is the largest elementary school in the
district, and it has the capacity for about 850 students.
It's unusual for new schools to open mid-year, and
school officials attribute the move's success to hard-working teachers and
parent and community volunteers.
"We couldn't have done it without them," said Laurel
Hill Principal Michael Antonelli.
Construction on Laurel Hill, named after a plantation
that once included the school site, finished on schedule in October. New
furniture and equipment were moved in during the following weeks, but
teachers couldn't start setting up their rooms until Dec. 10
On their own time, teachers stayed hours after school
and returned on weekends to set up their rooms. Many worked on the move
through the school district's winter break. They received a two-day stipend
for the extra work, but Antonelli said he couldn't imagine anyone doing the
work in less than four days.
Claudia McKellar, who teaches kindergarten, said
teachers did what they had to do to get their rooms the way they wanted. She
said having fewer students at Laurel Hill, which is about the same size as
Pinckney, made the school feel bigger, an observation shared by many others.
"It was exciting to get to a place where we had more
space," she said.
Jill Powell, mother of a Laurel Hill kindergartner,
volunteered to help set up a classroom during the winter break. She didn't
mind the mid-year move because of the benefits accompanying it, such as more
space for students, she said.
"I think it will help them learn, not being so on top
of each other," she said.
The walls in many classrooms were filled with posters
and decorations, and artwork lined some hallways. Signs in the hallway
directed students to teachers' rooms, and the front office had school maps
Knowing the oldest child at Laurel Hill Primary would
be 8 years old, district leaders adjusted their plans to fit the needs of
younger children. The height of school equipment, such as bookshelves and
tack strips, was lowered.
The school is one level so that it can be evacuated
within one minute, said Bill Lewis, director of the school district's
Every classroom has an emergency exit door rather than
a window so children could leave the room more easily, he said.
The school takes advantage of natural light because
every classroom has windows and there are no interior classrooms, Lewis
said. The building also has automatic lights.
Construction of the school finished under budget, but
Lewis said he wasn't sure by how much.