2014 News for Pawleys Island, Litchfield and Murrells Inlet
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Schools: Charter facility will add a driveway, but cut classroom walls

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A charter school planned for a site on the border of Hagley Estates and Allston Plantation is likely to need less space for stormwater retention so it will have more room for overflow parking. Neighbors raised concerns about traffic at the new Coastal Montessori Charter School when it came up for approval by Georgetown County this summer.

The school hopes to have plans completed early next year, said Rob Horvath, who chairs the Coastal Montessori board. The school bought 6.9 acres on Highway 17 at Old Plantation Drive this summer. It has a $6 million loan from the federal Rural Development agency for the purchase and to build a school for 250 students in grades one through eight.

Charter schools receive public funding, but have their own boards and are exempt from some state regulations. Their buildings must be approved by the state Office of School Facilities, and that office will require the school to have a separate driveway for buses on Old Plantation Drive.

Only about a quarter of the school’s 184 students ride the bus, Horvath said. That could change as the school moves 7 miles closer to Georgetown from its current location in a vacant wing at Waccamaw Middle School. It wants to draw more students from the western portion of the county.

In the meantime, the school will work to keep more of its traffic stacked on campus as parents drop off and pick up students, Horvath said. It will have access from both Old Plantation and from Barony Place, which is the entrance to Allston Plantation.

The current building plan calls for about 26,000 square feet, including classrooms, offices, a multi-purpose room and a media center. A trip by the school’s director, Nathalie Hunt, and one of its board members, Rachel Tomovski, to a charter school in Houston, Texas, led to a last-minute change in the plan for the middle school.

Rather than create separate classrooms, the plan now shows four open areas around a central reading area that is surrounded by a shoulder-high wall. Although the architects had already sent the plans to engineers for cost estimates, “even they agreed it was a good change,” Horvath said.

Overall, the school is still aiming for a more residential look to the building exterior. “The big thing now is to get it engineered and find out what the price will be,” Horvath said.

Coastal Montessori is currently taking enrollment applications for the 2015 school year. The open enrollment period ends Friday.

There are already 58 students on a waiting list and 34 applications for 32 places in the first grade, Hunt said. That means the school will hold a lottery next month to determine which students go on the first-grade waiting list.

The school will continue to accept applications after the open enrollment period. Those students will go on a waiting list in the order their applications are received.

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