PICKENS COUNTY – The controversial vote to close two local elementary schools was held Monday night by the School District of Pickens County Board of Trustees in a meeting room filled to occupancy and protesters lined out in front of the building.
The final verdict: AR Lewis and Holly Springs elementary schools will be closed.
The proposed plan passed with a final vote of 4-2, with trustees Alex Saitta and Henry Wilson opposing.
“This is the kind of government that turns people off,” Wilson said in addressing the crowd before the meeting. “This is the kind of government that turns people away. You all don’t need to stand for this. Don’t stand for it. Those people outside? They shouldn’t have to stand outside. Don’t stand for this.”
Saitta argued money that could have prevented any school closures was instead slotted to fund “extra pay raises.”
Under the approved plan, A.R. Lewis students will be funneled into Hagood Elementary while Holly Springs students will be split between Hagood and Ambler elementary schools — depending on which side of U.S. 178 they live on. Those on the east side will go to Ambler, those on the West will be Hagood bound starting next school year.
Pickens Elementary school will remain unchanged.
“This is just wrong,” said Dan Moldley, who has two sons currently enrolled in Hagood. “First they were going to close us (Hagood Elementary) down, now they’re just going to overcrowd us instead. The people obviously don’t want this — I thought elected officials were supposed to represent the wishes of the people. Nobody wanted this.”
SDPC officials stated during the meeting that the closures will save the district roughly $8 million over the next five years and that the two schools were running under capacity.
Parents attending the meeting vowed that the fight to save the schools was far from over.
“Get on the phone and call everyone you can think of,” said Moldley. “We’ll appeal and appeal and when that’s done — we’ll appeal some more. It’s like Mr. Wilson was saying earlier: don’t stand for this.”
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.