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Board hears West Wateree Phase 2 options

Posted: February 20, 2014 5:53 p.m.
Updated: February 21, 2014 5:00 a.m.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees, Kershaw County School District (KCSD) Executive Director for Operations Billy Smith presented a PowerPoint which offered an overview of maps and information regarding Facilities Equalization Plan Phase 2 options in the West Wateree area; Smith had similarly presented overviews regarding the Camden area at the Jan. 21 board meeting and regarding the North Central area at the Feb. 4 board meeting.

Smith’s presentations showed the following issues to be in question in the Camden area and offered the following proposals:

Camden High School

• CHS renovation and athletic facilities upgrades on Ehrenclou site only ($7.82 million); or

• CHS renovation, Zemp Stadium renovation and other athletic facilities upgrades on Ehrenclou site ($7.82 million)

Camden Elementary School

• Replacement of former Camden Middle School site (including demolition of current building) ($18.15 million); or

• Renovation of current building ($13.03 million).

In the North Central area, Smith presented the following options:

North Central High School

• Renovation and athletic facilities upgrades ($6.17 million)

North Central Middle School

• Addition with science labs and special needs classrooms ($1.92 million)

Elementary schools

• Combined North Central Elementary School (300 capacity) to replace Bethune and Mt. Pisgah on donated site next to North Central Middle School (NCMS) ($10.49 million) with renovation of Baron DeKalb (BDK) ($4.88 million); or

•Combined North Central Elementary School (500 capacity) to replace Bethune, Mt. Pisgah and BDK on donated site next to NCMS ($13.56 million).

In the West Wateree area, Smith presented the following options:

Lugoff-Elgin High School

• Renovation/addition/athletic upgrades ($12.09 million)      

Stover Middle School

• Renovation/addition ($2.43 million)

Wateree Elementary School

• Replacement (including demolition) ($18 million)

Lugoff Elementary School

• Replacement (including demolition and 25 acres of land) ($18.73 million); or

• Renovation ($9.41 million).

With each site, there were specific questions discussed among board members. The following considerations were made in regards to each area:

Camden

• Renovate Zemp Stadium or maintain as is? Zemp is landlocked and only limited renovation can be done. The district only owns the field and the land on which the bleachers sit. Historic Camden owns the rest of the land and charges the district for parking at athletic events. There is a significant emotional attachment to Zemp, especially by longer-term residents, because of the facility’s long history.

• Fully or partially develop Ehrenclou site? This may be the only opportunity in the foreseeable future to develop the site.

• Renovate or rebuild Camden Elementary School? A rebuilt school could be located on the old Camden Middle School site on Laurens Street. Renovating the current building would require the school to operate with mobiles in the back of the school. It would also require additions such as an elevator for the two-story section and other requirements such as fire suppression, which is difficult and costly to do in an older facility. Renovating the current facility would not address the fact that the classrooms there are 100-150 square feet smaller than in newer construction such as Jackson.

North Central

• If North Central elementary schools were consolidated, BDK students living west of S.C. 97 would have to travel a much greater distance to the new school. An “express” bus for students west of S.C. 97 might be a solution.

• If a combined school were built, it would make sense to redistrict students in and near the town of Bethune to Midway and students in the northern end of the current Midway attendance area to the new school.

• Sentiment has been expressed by citizens in Bethune that a new school be built halfway between Bethune and Mt. Pisgah elementary schools, as was discussed for Phase 1.

• There is concern in the town of Bethune about how losing its school will impact its community.

• If BDK remained open and current students closest to NCMS moved to a new school, BDK would be severely under populated.

West Wateree

• There was surprise in the community at the poor design and construction of Lugoff-Elgin High School and the poor condition of Lugoff and Wateree elementary schools.

• Wateree Elementary School (WES) could be used to house Lugoff Elementary School (LES) for a year so that a new LES could be built on the current site, assuming that a new WES would be built first. This would save land costs for a LES replacement.

• Renovation of LES does not address the size of classrooms, which are very small in comparison to new construction.

Bill and Kim Demer of Camden both spoke during the public forum portion of Tuesday’s meeting, regarding Phase 2 construction and how it would affect taxpayers.

“We have to be careful where desires are overriding rational decision-making. We need to be always cautious of that,” Bill Demer said. “If I spend millions of dollars at work, I’m expected to be able to produce some metric of results … I would expect the largest employer in Kershaw County to do something similar and not fall behind the façade or excuse of ‘well, we can’t control the raw materials coming in to us, so we can’t really be held responsible for the results.”

He added that the district needs to find a way to “show metrics that we’re making improvements and meeting our mission.”

Demer also said that “as stewards” of Kershaw County taxpayers’ money, the board was responsible for showing the results of the proposed spending that will occur with Phase 2 operations.

Later in the meeting, Trustee Don Copley asked for an estimate of what part of the budget would deal with debt service for Phase 2.

“I feel compelled to say I’m pretty fiscally responsible, but the reason we see all this is to do due diligence to decide whether to repair or replace,” Copley said. “We consider the safety, the maintenance costs and as a society we want to stay in nice hotels, go to nice department stores, we bank at places that look like Taj Mahals. I don’t think it’s so bad to have our kids in a place that’s safe and conducive to learning.”

Morgan stated that he would get the requested numbers for Copley and other board members. Board Chair Mara Jones echoed Copley’s sentiments that the board has been “very … diligent in all that we’ve done” in regards to Phase 2.

“The cost of energy has increased over the past couple of years, our buildings have decreased (due to) the wear and tear. However, what we here from the community is that they still want technology for our children to move forward, they still want their kids to be safe. Those things have to be addressed,” Jones said. “We spent money at Baron DeKalb to increase security and I feel very strongly that that has enhanced learning. As a board member I have no problem asking county council to give me a raise in my annual salary to run this district if it ensures the continuity and care for our children and keeps them competitive in our society.”

Jones added that the board continues to observe conditions in the county’s schools as they “are not static and are continually changing.” She said she believes the board is very fiscally responsible.

In other news:

• Trustees heard an update from KCSD Executive Director for K-12 Instructional Support Systems Dr. Alisa Goodman on changes to the SEAGUL program. “I’ve been very pleased with where this program has gone,” Morgan stated, following Goodman’s presentation.

• Jones informed trustees that at Kershaw County Council’s meeting Tuesday, Lugoff-Elgin Middle School (L-EMS) wrestling coach Ted Munroe will be recognized with a resolution for leading 200 state wins for L-EMS wrestlers as well as his seventh state win in a row.

• Jones also said the board will present quarterly results to county council on how the district spent millage at Tuesday’s meeting.

• Trustees received an update on concussions reported at various KCSD schools.

• Trustees also discussed make up days and concluded that March 7 will be a regular school day, which originally would have been a day off for students while teachers were in professional development. The board is waiting on the outcome of legislation that might be passed by the General Assembly which could give the board authority to forgive other days that were missed before any other decisions are made. Morgan stated that a final disposition from the General Assembly would probably take at least another week. Trustees will still have to vote to forgive any missed days even if the legislature approves such legislation.

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