Proposed Johns Island elementary school raises traffic concerns

JOHNS ISLAND, SC (WCSC) – Traffic patterns and flooding are just a few concerns the people of Johns Island have about the location of a new elementary school in District 9.

Dozens of parents and people who live off River Road gathered Thursday night to respond to the Charleston County School District’s updated plans.

Plans include opening the new elementary school off River Road for the 2024-2025 school year. With the many traffic deaths that have occurred on this road in recent years, people are concerned that student safety is not the top priority.

“I’m fine with putting a school anywhere on the island, not where we’re going to have the most unpatrolled traffic,” Courtney Morris-West, a resident who lives off River Road.

This new school will be for grades two through five and will house 700 students. This results from neighboring schools such as Angel Oak Elementary and Mt. Zion Elementary that are at or over capacity.

At the community meeting, the district presented updated plans that include a roundabout redesign, possible bell schedules for parents with children who attend multiple schools and more.

Harrison Harbin, a parent of Mt. Zion Elementary, says traffic forecasts are one of his biggest concerns.

“Ten years ago, Johns Island is a different place than it is today,” Harbin said. “So taking that five-year segment of data and using 2% traffic growth to dictate what’s going to happen in the next ten years doesn’t seem realistic to me.”

Morris-West says her property is dead center where this new school will be located. She says that two years ago, her daughter’s car was pulled over by a drunk driver on River Road.

The Charleston Police Department says they’ve responded to three fatal crashes in the past five years — a concern that Morris-West says local leaders need to take more seriously.

“Nobody wants to take ownership of this piece of property and now they want to put a school there,” Morris-West said.

Others cited issues of potential flooding from the school to nearby properties due to its construction on wetlands.

“It’s going to affect our property and our lives,” Morris-West said. “They should be looking before they do the study to invest in these architects and these builders to do it.”

Harbin says he doesn’t want the district to jump the gun too soon.

“We’d all rather wait an extra year and continue to explode knowing that we’re going to be in a safe scenario with safe roads and a safe way to get to school in the morning,” Harbin said.

County officials say the approval process for this plan will take months. The county’s design review board will hold its first of three review meetings on Nov. 7.


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