Indian Land Elementary School using 'mobile village'

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By Chris McGinn

Chris McGinn

For The Lancaster News

Despite moving an entire school’s worth of students out of the building in January, Indian Land Elementary School remains above capacity, with 1,085 students as of Aug. 26, with more enrolling daily.

Each of Indian Land’s schools increased in enrollment this month, with students moving in from nearby school districts and distant states, such as North Dakota and New York.

The elementary school is now using six of its 12 mobile classrooms, but will likely fill several more after Labor Day, when most new students will be enrolled.

Four third-grade and two fourth-grade classes meet in the mobiles now. Another unit is being converted into bathrooms to prevent students from having to walk into the building to use one.

In January, Indian Land Middle School moved from the elementary school to the renovated former high school building, taking more than 400 students to the new school.

That left 976 elementary school students in the building, which was built to accommodate 1,006 students.

New ILES principal Beth Blum said about 100 new students registered during a July registration session and an average of five new students enrolled each day the first week of school. Among the new students were 27 kindergarten students and many first- and fifth-graders.

She said class sizes are determined by state standards, with fewer students allowed in younger classes so those class sizes are smaller. The district is prepared to make adjustments to meet these standards, including adding new classrooms and hiring more teachers.

District facility director David Small said the rapid growth in the lower grades indicates that most new families moving into Indian Land have elementary students, as opposed to middle or high school students.

Blum credits former principal David McDonald, who now leads the middle school, with being prepared for the growth by leaving

the mobile classrooms and furniture in place. The 12 mobiles add capacity for 250 students.

She said a group of parents is planning to plant window boxes for the classrooms and add landscaping to beautify the area.

Blum is used to growing schools after serving in a burgeoning area of Hartsville in Darlington County before moving here.

“It’s a good thing,” she said of the growth. “It’s good families with wonderful children.”

Middle, high school grow, too

Indian Land Middle School is enjoying a little breathing room as its numbers rose to just over 500 as of Aug. 26. The building has a capacity of 750, following a $6 million renovation last fall, Small said.

Twenty new students registered in July and a handful have come in during the first week of school.

“The classes sizes are the best they’ve looked in four years,” Principal David McDonald said.

In addition to smaller classes, the middle school now can add clubs and activities that were limited when it was sharing space with the elementary school.

Teachers also benefit from the move with multiple teachers for subjects at each grade level. McDonald said that having two science teachers or two math teachers gives them peers to collaborate with.

The middle school added five to six teaching positions this year and made other preparations for growth.

“We are where we thought we would be. We planned for it. We expected it,” McDonald said.

The new high school opened last year with 550 students in a building with a capacity of 800. A year later, it is home to 620 students, up nearly 13 percent from year-end.

Principal Kathy Faris said she expected to have about 600 students this year. Due to budget cuts from the state, the school did not add new staff, she said.

However, as students continue to arrive through Labor Day, new teachers may be requested.

Faris noted that they still have room to grow in the new building, and plans are in place for future expansion up to 1,200 students.

“I think they will have to deal with growth at the elementary level first,” she said.

The school district bought 36 acres in the southern part of Indian Land on U.S. 521 for future schools, but no specific plans have been developed yet, Small said.