The board of trustees has approved a plan to consolidate schools in the Pickens area, effective at the start of the 2016-2017 school year.
On March 14, the board voted to close A.R. Lewis Elementary and Holly Springs Elementary, and to merge these schools with Hagood Elementary and Ambler Elementary. Students from A.R. Lewis will be rezoned for Hagood Elementary. Holly Springs students living on and east of Highway 178 will be rezoned for Ambler Elementary; Holly Springs students living west of Highway 178 will be rezoned for Hagood Elementary. No other schools were a part of the merger plan.
Long-Range Planning Working Group Meetings
After hearing input from the public about the consolidation proposal, the school district scheduled three meetings to further research and discuss the district's long-term planning.
The board of trustees' Facilities Committee held workshop meetings with representatives from each school in the Pickens attendance area in order to analyze and find possible solutions for meeting the ongoing capital needs of the district.
The meetings were:
- Tuesday, February 23, 2016 District Office Board Room. 7:00 PM
- Tuesday, March 1, 2016 District Office Board Room. 7:00 PM
- Tuesday, March 8, 2016 District Office Board Room. 7:00 PM
The workshops addressed the following topics:
- Alternate consolidation options;
- Alternate timelines for gradual implementation of a consolidation plan;
- Possibility and impact of budget cuts to other areas;
- Alternate options for housing district-wide services such as Adult Education, Alternative School, Operations, and Accountability & Information Technology;
- Possibility and impact of a tax increase;
- Options for a referendum on a tax increase;
- Postponement of a decision until after the November election, at which 3 board seats may be contested;
- Sale of closed school buildings to a charter school operator.
Many of these topics have been discussed at length by the board, administrators, and stakeholder groups.
The meetings were presided over by Phillip Bowers, chair of the facilities committee. The stakeholder groups were composed of two members from each of the seven schools potentially impacted by the merger. The stakeholders were be appointed by the principal of each school.
In the fall of 2014, four different teams were formed by attendance areas (Easley, Daniel, Liberty and Pickens) representing elementary, middle, high, the Career & Technology Center, parents, and teachers. All members were given comprehensive financial data, and charged with making recommendations for a five-year budget plan. The teams delivered their presentation to the board on November 24, 2014. The plan was an overview of how to maintain a competitive district in spite of financial challenges such as rising fixed costs and a general fund that is 89 percent salaries and benefits. The teams were asked to solve the major problems in five years pending favorable economic conditions. The findings of these teams were one of several presentations which led board members to consider consolidation.
It is our hope that holding more meetings with stakeholders to attempt to solve the challenges facing the district that the board can come to a more refined solution and that the public will have a better understanding of the financial realities of serving 16,500 students with excellence and equity.
To view the results of the 2014 group study, click here.