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School board hears Phase 2 feedback

Posted: December 20, 2013 4:39 p.m.
Updated: December 23, 2013 5:00 a.m.

So what do people think of the Kershaw County School District’s (KCSD) proposed Phase 2 of its Facilities Equalization Plan (FEP)? The Kershaw County Board of School Trustees found out at its Dec. 17 meeting as the board heard some of that feedback.

Since September, KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan and KSCD Director of Operations Billy Smith have conducted a series of community meetings in an effort to educate the public about the FEP, both Phase 1 in the past and the Phase 2 proposals. During each meeting, Smith took residents through a tour of area schools via photographs. He and Morgan answered questions and addressed issues brought up at the meetings -- which included two meetings each in the North Central, Camden and West Wateree areas in addition to presentations to various civic groups.

Morgan said two more meetings are scheduled in January; one with the Concerned Clergy of Kershaw County, the other with the Lugoff Optimists Club.

Morgan told the board Dec. 17 that he asked attendees for feedback concerning publicity and accessibility, as well as any concerns they had about the district’s proposal. He said that feedback revealed many community members weren’t familiar with some of the architectural difficulties some Kershaw County schools are dealing with, such as flooding at Lugoff Elgin High School (L-EHS) and Wateree Elementary School.

In the West Wateree area, parents and community members said the arts facilities at L-EHS were inadequate and needed to be addressed just as much as athletic needs. There was also concern about the high school’s auditorium, which leaves a “poor impression” and needs to be renovated, Morgan reported.

He said parents were surprised at the poor conditions at L-EHS, WES and Lugoff Elementary School (LES) and suggested LES should be replaced as opposed to simply renovated. Morgan said there was also some concern over a rumor of a housing development in Elgin and how to pay for new schools should the area grow.

 In the North Central area, residents expressed concerns about travel time for elementary school students who live west of S.C. 97, if elementary schools are consolidated. Morgan and Smith said an express system could help alleviate travel time. Morgan has previously said an express bus system would be feasible due to savings associated with consolidating the schools in the North Central area. At the Dec. 17 meeting, Smith said the express bus could cut down the route time for everyone in the area.

Some North Central residents said small schools are valuable even if they cost more to run, however. Some citizens expressed concern about the impact of closing down Bethune Elementary School (BES); others wondered if a consolidated school built to serve BES and Mt. Pisgah students could be built halfway between the two schools. According to Phase 2 FEP proposals, however, one of the added benefits of a combined North Central elementary school is increased academic and extra-curricular activity opportunities for students.

In Camden, Zemp stadium is a big topic, according to Morgan and Smith. Residents expressed concern that the parking area was not lit and dangerous because it is unpaved. Camden community members said the stadium is outdated, but can’t be improved because it is “landlocked.” Some believe the track at the stadium takes away from the “game atmosphere.” Morgan said the community felt that those who valued Zemp Stadium were concerned that a “tinker toy stadium” would replace it and would like to see an architectural drawing before deciding whether or not to support a new facility.

Camden residents said Camden Elementary School needs to be replaced rather than renovated, and that a new elementary school in downtown Camden would enhance economic development. Some said that the current school site would be an ideal place for a residential development. Camden residents also said Legion Field needs more locker space and public restrooms.

Other community feedback included renovating the Applied Technology Education Campus or rebuilding the campus on the Central Carolina site; and safety features and cameras across the district. Residents told the district it needs to use social media to help educate people about a proposed Phase 2 referendum, and that the district also needs to frame the referendum in context of economic development benefits.

The board plans to continue Phase 2 discussions at its January meetings. Morgan said he hopes to have a referendum timeline drafted by Jan. 14 and then hold at least three more community meetings before the board votes on the final referendum language.

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