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Garrett's future still in limbo as CCSD postpones vote on new advanced studies school

Garrett Academy (File/WCIV)

The Charleston County School Board was set to vote Monday night on a recommendation to locate a North Charleston Center for Advanced Studies that will be built in the coming years.

That vote, however, did not happen after a series of confusing steps and an hours long meeting.

First, it was disclosed to the public that the advisory board tasked with recommending the location of the CAS failed to come up with a recommendation. The board, which set the October 23 meeting date as a time to vote on that recommendation back in September, was then unable to consider a specific location.

The advisory board includes CCSD board members Cindy Bohn Coats, Reverend Chris Collins, and Kevin Hollinshead. The three said they met with multiple people in the community to get a feel of where the CAS should be built, but that's where the stories diverge.

Hollinshead and Collins said there was "overwhelming support" from the community that the CAS be placed at Garrett Academy of Technology. They said that support was apparent at the advisory board meeting last week, and it was apparent at the CCSD board meeting Monday when several people spoke in favor of Garrett becoming the location of the new CAS.

At the board meeting, however, Hollinshead motioned the board to use the CAS agenda item to only gather more information from the community and the board instead of taking action. Hollinshead added that asking for more time to come up with a recommendation of the CAS placement was the consensus of the advisory board at its last meeting.

Still, one of the advisory board members, Coats, voted against the move, opting instead to take a vote on where to place the CAS. It was then revealed that Coats mailed a proposal to about 100 people in North Charleston to gauge whether they would like the CAS to be placed at Stall High School. Hollinshead said Coats did that unbeknownst to the advisory committee and undermined it, the board, and the community in doing so.

Several people, including Pastor Thomas Dixon, made their concerns regarding the CAS and Garrett's fate known to the board.

Many want Garrett, a county-wide academic magnet school, to continue to exist and become the site of the new CAS. They believe Garrett's trade-focused curriculum already coincides with the CAS program for careers and technology and would be an investment into Garrett and the district.

They begged the board to keep Garrett open regardless of where the CAS is built and said closing the school would be a detriment to an already underserved community.

Ultimately, and after prematurely voting to take action on the issue, the board decided to postpone the vote on the North Charleston CAS until a specially-scheduled meeting on November 2.

The board also voted in favor of granting the advisory committee more time to set a meeting at which time it can come up with a set recommendation for the CAS location.

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