In a 6-3 vote, Charleston County School District (CCSD) Board has voted to close Lincoln Middle-High School in McClellanville at the conclusion of this 2015-16 school year. The controversial decision has been rumored for some time. Those in support of Lincoln remaining open cited a desire to keep children closer to home in an effort to reduce time spent on school buses and to keep them in a smaller community school setting. Those in support of the closing cited the school’s historic poor testing performance, inadequate opportunities for area students due to low student population, and the high cost per pupil expenditures with CCSD facing an $18 million shortfall. Some area residents have pushed for a new school to be built in the area, but declining Lincoln student enrollment numbers and the projected growth of the area did not justify the expenditures.
According to CCSD’s transition plan, 9th-12th graders will now be enrolled at Wando High School on the outskirts of Mt. Pleasant. St. James Santee Elementary School between McClellanville and Awendaw will expand to serve K-8th grades, but middle schoolers will also have the option to attend either Cario or Laing Middle Schools in Mt. Pleasant. CCSD will provide transportation to all of these schools in two air conditioned buses with equipped with wi-fi.
Additionally, Cape Romain Environmental Education Charter School, or CREECS for short, located in McClellanville offers an alternative public school option to children in grades K-8th. This school is part of the state charter school system and operates autonomously from CCSD.
The Back Story
Lincoln Middle-High School was infamously used as an evacuation center in 1989 during Hurricane Hugo only to experience rising water within the 1-story building above evacuee’s heads. The school was renovated despite being below flood code, but since that time other structural flaws have developed and the school board has been hesitant to make further capital improvements on the substandard structure.
Since the closing of McClellanville’s Middle School, Lincoln has housed the area’s 7-12th grade students with St. James Elementary serving grades K-6th. Lincoln is currently ranked 177th out of 226 high schools in the state while Wando is 10th. Wando also offers a plethora of class opportunities including AP and special focuses as well as many more clubs, organizations, sports, and extracurricular activities that were unable to student at Lincoln. Cario and Laing Middle Schools are also top ranking schools.
What Does This Mean for McClellanville and Awendaw Real Estate?
As this is a real estate website, it only seems fair to look at Lincoln’s closing through the real estate prism. Many have stated that the decision to close Lincoln will raise property values in the area overnight. Currently, prospective buyers researching properties for sale on popular sites such as Zillow will find images like the data below showing schools ranked 2-out-of-10 on every single listing in the the McClellanville / Awendaw area. Compare this with nearby Mt. Pleasant listings which display 10-out-of-10 ranked schools and it’s easy to see how some buyers would stop searching all together for property in McClellanville and Awendaw. The data below is pulled from 3rd party service GreatSchools.org which in turn gathers data from standardized test scores and other sources. It will take some time for these new changes to trickle across the internet, but as news of the school closure spreads and buyers are made aware of the new access to highly ranked schools, it’s easy to see how the area will become a more sought after place to live.
People selling their homes in bustling Mount Pleasant and moving to the Bulls Bay area make up a huge portion of the current buyer activity and this will only increase as they realize that their children will be able to remain at the Mt. Pleasant schools to which they have become accustomed. A Realtor.com survey indicated that 91% of buyers considered school boundaries in their decision on where to buy. Additional research showed a high correlation between school rankings and the stability of the home values.
As a final demonstration of the effect that schools have on the real estate market, one Awendaw seller was so concerned with the poor performing schools in District 1 that they offered within the public description portion of their listing in the MLS that a free lot would be included to whom ever would buy their high-dollar Awendaw property to allow the buyer to still claim residency in District 2.
What Does the Future Hold?
CCSD is finalizing the purchase of a 184-acre tract of land in Awendaw that will be preserved for a future site which is large enough for not only a high school but also an elementary and middle school. With a majority of the children in District 1 living within 5 miles of boundary between District 1 and 2, it makes more sense to build new schools in this more centralized location. The closing of Lincoln should also now allow for the number of school-aged children in the area to grow more quickly which will justify construction of a new school in Awendaw sooner than if Lincoln had remained open.
This now leaves two of the three public schools in McClellanville vacant at the cost of tax payers, but possibly not for long. According to it’s facebook page, Oceanside Collegiate Academy, has received permission from CCSD to move in to the vacant McClellanville Middle School facility at 711 Pinckney Street for the 2016-17 school year. This unique privately run athletic charter school is in the process of constructing a campus in Carolina Park in Mt. Pleasant, but there are concerns that work will not be complete by the beginning of the school year.
As for Lincoln’s facilities. It is hard to imagine an organization or institution that would be able to put the structure to use, however the grounds also include a waste water treatment facility which is needed for McClellanville Middle School’s existence as well. I would imagine that CCSD will look to sell the property sooner than later. The property is currently just outside of the Town of McClellanville but could be annexed if the Town could determine a suitable use for it.
While I recognize that these changes may be a difficult transition for the children currently impacted by this decision, I truly believe that it is an amazing opportunity and that it will ultimately be best for the student’s growth and development. Their future along with the future of the entire area looks very bright.