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Swim teams may be formed for middle, high schoolers
March 19 School Board (W).jpg
Karen Jackson, chairperson of the Baron DeKalb Elementary School Improvement Council, addresses the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees during its meeting Tuesday. Jackson asked trustees to move forward on a nearly 15-year-old recommendation to replace the original 1956 portion of the school. - photo by Gee Whetsel

Kershaw County School District (KCSD) middle and high school students could have the opportunity to join swim teams anchored at the district’s three high schools in the near future.

During a short meeting of the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees on Tuesday, KCSD District Director for Pupil Services Duane Pate reported on “the very early stages” of research he has done in regards to the possibility of adding swim teams to the district’s sports programs.

KCSD Superintendent Dr. Shane Robbins said when he came to the district last year, one of the first questions he was asked was, “When are we going to get a swim team?”

Robbins said there continues to be a significant amount of interest from students and their parents about adding the sport.

“Right now, we’re in the fact-finding stage -- just getting information about what all would be involved,” he said.

Pate said he has been researching how the district would go about establishing swim teams at Camden, Lugoff-Elgin and North Central high schools for students in grades 7-12. He said he has talked to S.C. High School League officials and met with folks “from Lancaster County schools who work with their recreation department to have a swim team.”

He’s also contacted the Kershaw County Aquatic Center to get prices on the cost of the district using its pool during the off-season.

Pate said there is a district faculty member who is a former swim teacher and would be interested in coaching a swim team.

“I met with him, also, and am trying to put together information for (the board) to have for any kind of decision you might make going down the road,” he said.

The cost of starting up a swim team/program is another part of his research, Pate added.

“There’s the initial cost and then there are recurring costs,” he said. “You have to look at stipends for coaches and the cost of equipment and all that.”

Swim is a fall sport and runs the same time as football, volleyball and cross country, Pate said.

“I found out you must have at least six students to have a team and you have to have separate girls and boys teams,” he said.

Each high school must have its own team but could share a coach, practice and travel together, he said.

As the process moves forward, Pate said his office will send out letters to determine how much student interest there is in having swim teams at the district’s high schools.

Also Tuesday, during the meeting’s public comment time, Baron DeKalb Elementary School Improvement Council Chairperson Karen Jackson asked board members to consider making needed renovations to the school.

“This school is important to the community and serves a large area,” Jackson said. “We have more than 200 students and we’ve been waiting patiently for years for the appropriate amount of attention to be paid to Baron DeKalb Elementary School.”

Jackson said she has been a strong supporter of the school since 2010 when her first grandchild became a student there.

“My belief in the excellent education provided by the teachers and staff provided at Baron DeKalb has just strengthened over the last nine years,” she said.

Even though both of her grandchildren have left the elementary school, Jackson said she still feels a strong attachment to Baron DeKalb.

“I believe in Baron DeKalb and fighting to keep this school open and in good operating condition -- that’s the right thing to do for all the current and future students who will receive the same excellent education that my two grandchildren received,” Jackson said.

She said the elementary school serves students in five different zip codes, and many students already have to travel a good ways to get to school.

“If Baron DeKalb were closed, these same students, particularly those in the Liberty Hill area, would have even longer ride times (to and from school) than they do now,” she said.

Jackson also read board members portions from a 2005 report done on Baron DeKalb Elementary, which was started in 1956 and built in phases. The report noted the “original 1956 Phase I building has exceeded its useful life and should be replaced.”

“That was their recommendation in 2005,” Jackson said. “That’s a long time since that recommendation was made and nothing has been done in regards to replacing that portion of our building at Baron DeKalb.”

Jackson asked the board to make the renovations suggested in the 2005 report. She said some renovation on the school was begun after the report came out, but work was abruptly halted with no explanation.

“I’ve been told that some of the board members who will decide the fate of Baron DeKalb have never even walked into our building,” Jackson said. “How can you make a decision on the future of this extremely important and necessary elementary school without (checking) it out for yourself?”

In other business, Robbins said he had a follow-up conversation with representatives from LiveWell Kershaw about expanding their health services in the district.

“We are making slow progress, but we want to make sure we have all our i’s dotted and T’s crossed,” Robbins said.

He said plans are to meet with representatives from both LiveWell Kershaw and Telehealth to map out a plan on what might be accomplished by working together.

“Again, the goal is to provide as many services and opportunities to our kids in this county as possible. We think there is a good chance we can put Telehealth in the Camden and Wateree area with the LiveWell on-site clinic up in the North Central area to try and meet the needs of our kids,” Robbins said.