Samuel and Elizabeth Darko moved to Lake Carolina three years ago for one overriding reason: the quality of the elementary and middle schools within their planned Northeast Richland community.
This week, the Darkos, natives of Ghana in West Africa, found out Richland 2 is proposing rezoning families in Lake Carolina's Centennial community for Bridge Creek Elementary.
While Bridge Creek is the district's newest elementary school, the couple says it is inferior to the award-winning Lake Carolina Elementary.
"If we just wanted a home and a place to live we could have bought a house downtown," said Samuel Darko, a Benedict College science and engineering professor and father of three.
"We moved here because of the schools. Because of the future of the children, we want to make that investment."
A revolt is brewing among Darko's neighbors, who contend Centennial is the only community that will be forced to uproot children from Lake Carolina Elementary, a national Blue Ribbon school ranked among the state's top elementaries.
Some Centennial residents plan to rally at 3 p.m. Sunday at their community center.
Many vow, too, to show up at Richland 2's meeting Tuesday, when the board is expected to vote on attendance line changes for Lake Carolina and a some other elementaries.
"This could affect other Lake Carolina communities in the future," said resident Kimberley Munteanu, who has collected 85 signatures on a petition she plans to present to the board. "We are trying to do a preemptive strike."
Richland 2 officials said redrawing attendance lines is simply a function of growth.
Centennial, one of 18 communities within Lake Carolina, was chosen because the entire neighborhood could attend Bridge Creek, said spokeswoman Theresa Riley.
"With the tremendous growth that Richland 2 has experienced, especially in Blythewood and the northern part of the district, we have to draw new attendance lines in order to make the best use of the new facilities that have been built and the current facilities that we do have," Riley said.
Lake Carolina, opened in 2002, is Richland 2's largest elementary, with 900 students, according to the district. It was designed for just under 640.
Bridge Creek Elementary, opened in 2008, has 450 students, and a capacity for more.
To ease the transition to Bridge Creek, Arthur Newton, assistant principal at Lake Carolina Elementary, will become Bridge Creek's principal next year, Riley said.
She acknowledged that moving a child is highly emotional.
"Lake Carolina is a wonderful school, but it is not the only wonderful school," Riley said. "From a district standpoint, we don't believe that any child attending Bridge Creek will get any less of an education than they would at Lake Carolina."
Centennial resident Karey Killen, the mother of three, including two at Lake Carolina Elementary, isn't so sure.
She is concerned because she has heard Bridge Creek has only one National Board-certified teacher, compared with 20 at Lake Carolina. The district could not confirm those numbers Thursday.
There is also the socio-economic factor. About 15 percent of Lake Carolina students are on free or reduced lunch, according to the district, compared with about 61 percent at Bridge Creek.
Killen said she believes residents of Centennial are what she called the "undesired" at Lake Carolina because the subdivision is the least expensive in the planned community off Hard Scrabble Road, with homes in Centennial costing between $180,000 and $300,000.
Killen's husband, Tim, clocked mileage from other subdivisions within Lake Carolina and found that at least five other Lake Carolina neighborhoods are closer to Bridge Creek Elementary.
Richland 2 officials believe Centennial is the closest subdivision to the school.
"Right now, we are dead set on them trying to look at other options," said Tim Killen. "I don't want to get into this 'not in my backyard situation,' but there are some students who might be more willing to change."
Lisa Cook, a mother of two who does not live in Lake Carolina, said parents should give Bridge Creek a try.
"When I got rezoned I thought the same thing," said Cook, whose daughter, now a fourth-grader, was moved last year from Lake Carolina to Bridge Creek.
"Once I got there, I realized it's a new school, and they had all state-of-the-art equipment there," said Cook. "I was very impressed with the class sizes and the individual attention that the kids get."
She isn't worried about the higher numbers of children on free and reduced lunch.
"I don't believe a person's financial background should have anything to do with education," she said. "At Bridge Creek, they don't dwell on that at all."
The Killens, the Darkos and Kimberley Munteanu say real estate agents told them their children would go to Lake Carolina. The school is mentioned, along with Kelly Mill Middle, on Lake Carolina's Web site.
Kristy Barnes, marketing director for Lake Carolina Communities, said at the time their homes were sold, Lake Carolina was the zoned elementary school.
"We do have good schools that surround Lake Carolina, but just because you live in Lake Carolina doesn't mean you will attend the on-site school," she said. "We can't control the district in terms of rezoning."
At least one other Lake Carolina community, Ashland, is not zoned for Lake Carolina Elementary, she said.
Samuel Darko, who has a first-grader at Lake Carolina and two smaller children, said he may move to a home zoned for Lake Carolina.
"We are planning to move if push comes to shove," Darko said. "We are living there not because of the luxury. It is because of the education we want for our children. ... I don't know how we are going to do it, but I trust in the Lord."