The Waccamaw-Siouan tribe community straddles the Bladen / Columbus county line. Those on the Bladen side have been allowed to go to Columbus County schools with no problem, but new school policies are changing that. A letter home to parents spells out the changes. Students who live in Bladen County will no longer be able to attend Columbus County schools. Most of the kids in question live in the Native American Waccamaw-Siouan community. "This county line not only splits our community, but divides families,” said Michael Jacobs. Michael Jacobs is the Tribal Council's chairman. He says for decades, the Waccamaw-Siouan students in the area have been allowed to cross into Columbus County to go to school. Now, the Columbus County school board has two new policies, requiring out of county students to pay a $700 one-time fee to attend school, as well as provide their own transportation. The changes are a result of school budget cuts. Columbus County Superintendent Dan Strickland says the fee will apply to students entering the county for the first time. Current students can get a waiver from the Bladen County district, and stay in their current Columbus County school. "We want to grandfather those that are already here and educate those kids just like they have been for a number of years, but new students coming in we have got to make some tough decisions to offset the funds that we are not receiving,” said Superintendent Strickland. Columbus County's transportation budget is being cut by $167,000, and the schools don't get funding from the state for those out of district students. Waccamaw-Siouan kids aren't the only ones affected. Columbus County administrators have discovered students from Brunswick, Robeson and Horry counties also attending class in county schools. Though the county doesn't get state funding for out of county students, Jacobs says it would be in the best interest for Columbus County to keep Waccamaw-Siouan students in their schools because of extra Native American funding from the federal government.
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