Grammar rules as Fort Mill School Board decides to add apostrophe to new school name

joverman@fortmilltimes.comJuly 5, 2013 

— The name of one of Fort Mill’s newest elementary schools is changing slightly to conform to grammar rules.

Doby’s Bridge Elementary School was originally slated to be named without the apostrophe because of school officials’ concerns that the apostrophe might cause problems with the 911 emergency response system and GPS navigation systems. That changed last week after an editorial in the Fort Mill Times suggested the grammatically incorrect name be changed.

Some readers who agreed responded by emailing Superintendent Chuck Epps. Others posted support for adding the apostrophe on the Fort Mill Times Facebook page.

Epps said he understands the lack of possessive apostrophe was grammatically incorrect, but he made the original recommendation to the board to omit it from the school name because “I was concerned that it wouldn’t always take people to the right address with the apostrophe. I was worried about emergency responders. I knew it was grammatically incorrect, but I was letting safety trump that.”

After the grammar issues were raised last week, Epps called York County Emergency Management Director Cotton Howell. He reassured Epps that the 911 and GPS systems would recognize the school name and address with or without the apostrophe, though older GPS systems used by average citizens may not, he said.

“When I heard that, I felt OK with going back and doing the grammatical correction. That was my concern, with the school safety piece and the emergency responders,” Epps said.

School Board Chairman Patrick White said that the board also had concerns that the apostrophe may create problems when filling out forms online.

Leaving out the apostrophe in road names is not uncommon, he added. He pointed out that Nims Lake Road and Whites Road do not have apostrophes. They are grammatically incorrect, “not because we have a bunch of idiots that name roads,” White said, but because of GPS recognition and online forms.

The street address for the new school does not have the apostrophe, and the school was following that trend.

“We do think it’s important to be grammatically correct but if there are systems in place in today’s technology world, there is a larger issue the [ Fort Mill Times’] editorial board is missing, that road names and grammar are sometimes at odds with each other,” White said.

Epps, with approval of the school board, made the decision to change the name quickly after discovering the safety issue was not a valid concern. He responded to parents’ emails over the July 4 holiday, he said, because he felt it was important to address their concerns promptly.

“I think we’ve shown a history that I’m open, the board is open. We’re responsive to the public. It is a democratic form of government,” Epps said.

“We simply are entrusted with managing the school system. We realize it belongs to all of us. I think that’s the good thing about the board and administration. They are open to getting it right.”

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