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Bethune residents urged to fight school referendum

Posted: June 15, 2014 1:00 p.m.
Updated: June 16, 2014 5:00 a.m.
Gary Phillips/C-I

Former school board Trustee Jim Smith urges Bethune residents upset with the current board's decision to consolidate three schools, including Bethune Elementary School, to vote against a bond referendum that would fund Phase 2 of the district's facilities equalization plan, of which the consolidation is a part.


Bethune residents upset about the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees recent vote to consolidate three elementary schools, including Bethune Elementary School (BES), into one larger school discussed the matter at the Bethune Town Council meeting Thursday. The consolidation plan involves BES, Mt. Pisgah and Baron DeKalb Elementary Schools, which would be combined into a single, new school to be built near North Central High School and North Central Middle School.

The proposition is part of the "Phase 2," $137 million referendum that will be voted on in the general election this November. The plan is to build and/or renovate several schools throughout the county if the referendum passes. Former Kershaw County Board of School Trustees member Jim Smith urged everyone to fight the referendum and suggested they should encourage others in all parts of the county to do the same.

"If you want to stop the closure of your school, get out and get every relative from Lugoff, Camden, everywhere else you can to work and stop the referendum. I don’t really think it will pass," Smith said. "But don’t take a chance. Do everything you can do to stop it. That’s the bottom line."

Consolidation opponents have said their children will have a much longer commute to a new school and supporters have suggested the school district would use "express buses" to move the students quicker.

"Those little kids have got no business being on any kind of school bus for two-and-a-half hours," Smith said, adding the superintendent of schools had personally researched the issue. "Dr. Frank Morgan got on the buses and rode them. He does not want to close these little schools because they’re humming. He don’t want to close them because of all those little children riding all that distance."

The council was also presented a petition of signatures from people who want former Bethune police officer Glenn Davis to be rehired by the town. Davis resigned in April with a letter to Mayor Charles McCoy that said the next day would be his last with the town. At Thursday’s meeting McCoy said the council would consider the petition, but reminded the audience of the circumstances of Davis’ departure.

"We will take this into consideration, but there again, I do have his letter of resignation right here also to put with that," McCoy said.

The mayor said the town has advertised for a new police officer, has conducted interviews and had more interviews scheduled.

Councilman Don Witham reported the town has been approved for a $55,000 grant to be used for repairs and renovations to the town’s water tank, as ordered by the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). Witham said a problem with the bidding process had come up, but he hoped it could be ironed out quickly. He earlier had reported the work on the water tower could run as high as $88,000.

"I know we followed every instruction and went over it with a fine-toothed comb," he said. "We have to go ahead whether we get that grant or not. DHEC has given us no choice. Hopefully we still can get the grant, but if not, we have to go ahead."



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