PICKENS COUNTY — A series of three meetings have been scheduled by the School Board of Pickens County to further research and discuss the proposal for the district closing three local elementary schools.
The meetings are scheduled for Feb. 23, March 1 and March 8. All will take place at the District Office Board Room at 7 p.m.
The Monday following the last meeting, March 14, the board will meet as a committee of the whole with the intention of making a recommendation based on the findings of the workshop meetings.
According to SDPC information specialist John Eby, the workshop meetings will include representatives from the affected schools in the Pickens attendance area with the intention of analyzing and finding possible solutions to meet the ongoing capital needs of the district.
Eby said that based on public feedback given to the board and administration at public input meetings and through numerous phone calls and emails, the workshops will address the following topics: alternate consolidation options as well as timelines for gradual implementation of a consolidation plan, the possibility and impact of budget cuts to other areas and other options for housing district-wide services such as Adult Education, Alternative School, Operations and Accountability & Information Technology.
Also to be discussed by the board is the possibility and impact of a tax increase, options for a referendum on a tax increase and possibly even the postponement of a decision until after the November election, at which point three board seats may be contested.
The sale of closed school buildings to a charter school operator is on the table as well.
“Many of these topics have been discussed at length by the board, administrators, and stakeholder groups,” stated Eby.
The district stated that 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 Nov. 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 that 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,” said Eby.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.