PICKENS COUNTY — The School District of Pickens County Board of Trustees has suggested a plan that would spare Hagood Elementary, but puts three others — A.R. Lewis, Ambler and Holly Springs elementary schools — on the chopping block.
The move, which won’t become official until voted on by the board, is expected to save the district $11.8 million in five years, with a capital needs saving of $2.7 million and another $9.1 million in general fund saving.
All three schools are currently running with student enrollment hovering at about 50 percent capacity: A.R Lewis is at 46 percent, Holly Springs at 50 percent and Ambler is sitting at the highest, with 55 percent.
According to SDPC and US Census data, the school aged population in the Pickens attendance area is declining.
With the proposed plan, Hagood Elementary would remain open and would host grades K-2 with grades 3-5 heading off to Pickens Elementary. Former Holly Springs and AR Lewis students would join them.
Students from Ambler would be funneled into Dacusville Elementary, which would host grades K-4 and Dacusville Middle School for grades 5-8.
All in all, with the proposed merger, expected enrollment at Hagood would jump from 275 to 677 students, Pickens Elementary would gain another 68 bodies, and Dacusville Elementary would increase from 648 to 786.
Despite the district’s assertions that larger school sizes will provide more academic opportunities, many parents of students currently enrolled in the affected schools are outraged.
“How did this happen?” said Macie Allred, who has a daughter at Ambler. “We went from closing one school to closing three? This is just ridiculous.”
An online petition started by parents against the closure of the schools garnered nearly 1,000 signatures in just the first 24 hours it was active.
“I just don’t understand how this can be allowed to happen,” said Allred. “We’re (the parents) obviously against this. If we rallied to save Hagood, what do they think we’ll do for these? Some of these board members seem to have forgotten just who it is they represent. Well, I’ll tell you. They represent us. They should start listening as to what it is we want—and what we don’t want. We don’t want our schools closed. Any of them.”
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.