Some A.C. Moore students in limbo after Richland 1 requires them to attend new school

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As Richland 1 expands its English as Second Language, or ESL, program, around 60 students at a local elementary school will be required to attend a different school than last year.

Those students, who attended A.C. Moore last year, will be attending either South Kilbourne or Meadowfield next year — whichever they’re zoned for — said Cody Smith, the chair of A.C. Moore’s School Improvement Council.

Staying at A.C. Moore appears to be out of the question, Smith said. That’s because the deadline to apply for a school transfer was in early May, but parents weren’t notified of the new school assignments until a few weeks later, Smith said.

The district, which has been working on expanding the ESL program for two years, has not received any formal transfer requests related to the new ESL programs, Richland 1 spokeswoman Karen York said.

Smith and other A.C. Moore parents asked the board during a public meeting last Tuesday to confirm whether students would be able to stay at A.C. Moore. Board Chairman Jamie Devine told Smith the district would respond by next week, according to an email obtained by The State.

“As you know, students in Richland 1 may obtain transfers based on various reasons, provided that space is available at the school,” Smith said in a follow-up letter to Superintendent Craig Witherspoon. “In this case, as A.C. Moore is potentially losing 60 students, space is certainly available.”

Until now, South Kilbourne and Meadowfield elementary schools did not have an ESL program. The schools will have the program this fall.

Nearly two-thirds of students enrolled in A.C. Moore’s ESL program meet state standards for learning English, according to the school’s S.C. Department of Education Report Card. That’s more than the state average (just under half) and more than the district average (just over half), according to the report card.

Of the 60 students affected, around 20 of them want to stay at A.C. Moore, Smith said. There are a total of 106 students enrolled in A.C. Moore whose first language is not English, according to the Report Card.

Despite the students — and possibly some teachers — being in limbo, new ESL programs at South Kilbourne and Meadowfield will likely be a good thing for students whose first language isn’t English, Smith said.

“Now, kids can go to their neighborhood schools and get the services they need,” Smith said of the program.