DCSD Board votes to consolidate schools, build new elementary school

DCSD Board votes to consolidate schools, build new elementary school
Posted on 12/14/2022
Exclamation MarkDARLINGTON, S.C. -- At its December monthly board meeting, the Darlington County Board of Education voted 5-2 to move forward with the construction of a new school facility to house the consolidated schools of St. John's Elementary School and Rosenwald Elementary/Middle School. The project is expected to be completed in time for the 2025-2026 school year.

"This is really about what is most beneficial for our children. Education and safety are what we should be concerned with the most," said Warren Jeffords, chairman of the board of education. "It's not an easy decision when you are talking about merging schools and closing schools. It's a very difficult decision. But ultimately, it's about our children and giving them the best opportunities we can."

Board members Leigh Anne Kelley (District 1), Warren Jeffords (District 4), Richard Brewer (District 5), Wanda Hassler (District 7), and Jamie Morphis (District 8) voted in favor of the consolidation and construction of the new school. Board members Lucas Reed (District 2) and Charles Govan (District 6) voted against the project.

The new school is part of the Darlington County School District's (DCSD) 2019 Facility Plan. The facility will be built at 2308 N. Governor Williams Highway on land the school district purchased in the spring. Early costs were predicted to be approximately $30 million based on market conditions in the spring of 2022. The facility will be built with existing district funds and will not require a referendum or tax increase. No reductions in staff are expected.

"This was a difficult decision for the board. The historical significance of both Rosenwald and St. John's speaks for itself," said Dr. Tim Newman, superintendent of the DCSD. "At the same time, we are focused on providing our students with the best educational environment possible. Merging these two schools into a newly constructed modern, technology-rich, safe, and secure building with educational spaces suited for today's learners is what we believe is best for our students' future. I know there may be some disappointment in both communities, but I hope everyone understands our primary commitment is to student success."

Last year the Board of Education held several public meetings to share information about the project with the community members. In making their decision, the board considered the age of the buildings of St. John's Elementary, which are between 100 to 200 years old, and the declining enrollment at Rosenwald Elementary/Middle School. Currently, there are only 81 students in PreK-5th grade and 46 students in grades 6-8 at Rosenwald.

Several board members expressed a desire to find new uses and purposes for the old school buildings in the community.

"We need to make sure these buildings do not go unused," said Lucas Reed, a board member from Society Hill. Mr. Reed suggested the district reach out to the schools' alumni associations and other groups to help find uses for the buildings. "We have options available with the buildings," Reed said. "But first and foremost, we've got to place our kids first."

"It's not an easy decision to make, but I know we have spent the better part of this year doing our due diligence," said board member Leigh Anne Kelley. "This board has always put kids first. And some decisions are harder than others, but the first question should be, 'How will this impact the kids?' The safety of the kids and the betterment of the kids always come first. There are a lot of other things involved in making the decisions - that impact the decision and that sometimes make it hard to make the decision - but the first question always has to be about the kids."