COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) -Residents within the Cottontown, Earlewood and Elmwood communities in downtown Columbia are concerned about possible plans to bring a charter school to the neighborhood.
Over the last year, the Clear Dot Charter School has been working to get approval to move into the old Jim Moore Cadillac site on North Main Street near Elmwood Avenue. Some residents say they have nothing against Clear Dot Charter School, but they’re not thrilled about the school’s location of choice.
Some residents fear this could be a setback to ongoing development in the area.
Clear Dot, a tuition-free charter school, can accommodate as many as 1,300 students, but those who live in the area say this could add an alarming amount of extra traffic.
There are also concerns about how the school could affect local businesses. State law prohibits the sale of alcohol in close proximity to schools and president of the Earlewood Community Citizens Organization (ECCO), Jennifer McBroom, says that’s bad for business.
“We have restaurants that have finally just opened in this area. We’re seeing a real transition on Main Street and in Cottontown that could be stymied by having the school here. I think it’s going to end up creating a nightmare situation and it’s going to chase away good business in an area that is finally seeing business growth,” McBroom said.
According to the South Carolina Department of Education, the SC Department of Transportation (SCDOT) performs a traffic study for every new school site. If SCDOT finds there will be significant traffic concerns, then the school will not be given approval to open.
SCDOT has confirmed that the department has been in an ongoing review of a traffic study provided by an engineer representing Clear Dot, proposing traffic changes in the area to accommodate the school. Those changes include a roundabout at Scott and Sumter Streets and eliminating left turns at Main and Scott Streets.
McBroom says, “Because this is a charter school, they don’t allow bussing. So, they’re going to have, at capacity, about 1,300 hundred students that have to be dropped off and picked up daily, and because of where we’re located near Elmwood, it’s going to be miles of backed up traffic. There’s just really no way that you can feasibly drop off and pick up that many students.”
SCDOT representatives say the traffic plan submitted by Clear Dot has not be approved, at this time. It’s not clear what steps are next in the school’s plan to relocate.
Some nearby residents have even started a petition against allowing the charter school to relocate. Currently, Clear Dot Charter School is operating out of a building on Marion Street in Columbia after opening its door for the first academic school year this past fall.
Multiple attempts to get an official statement from Clear Dot Charter School have been made, however they have not responded.