Timmonsville parents, community members walk out of meeting with SC Superintendent over school consolidation
TIMMONSVILLE, S.C. (WMBF) - Timmonsville parents and members of the community were up in arms Thursday at a meeting concerning the future of the town’s schools.
South Carolina State Superintendent Molly Spearman hosted a meeting to talk about the upcoming consolidation of Florence School District 4 and Florence School District 1.
- ‘Destruction of a school district’: Florence 4 board members file lawsuit over consolidation
- Spearman calls on Florence One to start taking steps to consolidate with Florence Four
Spearman announced last year that FSD4, which consists of the Timmonsville area, would be combined with FSD1 due to concerns over financial instability. FSD1 Superintendent Dr. Richard O’ Malley was later appointed to oversee the consolidation.
Members of the FSD4 board, as well as parents and community members, have been outspoken about the process since then. Members of the board have since filed a lawsuit against the South Carolina Department of Education over the consolidation.
Those tensions continued into Thursday’s meeting, with several dozen people storming out.
“You’re going to take over our school,” one person said. “Take over our community. We have no say-so.”
Spearman seemed to do little to ease the concerns of parents like Serena Kirkland.
“To me, they already got their minds made up to take our school,” she said. “We’re still going to fight for our school.”
Kirkland graduated from Timmonsville High School in 1999, and was looking forward to when her children would do the same.
“We really believe the students deserve a quality education, a well-run school district, and it’s got to be something that can be sustained because we can not keep this up forever.”
On Thursday, Spearman explained the issues further - pointing out that the entire population of Timmonsville’s three schools is less than half of one of FSD1′s high schools. She also said that since districts are funded by size, it makes it difficult to get enough money to pay for operations personnel and make ends meet.
“Folks, we can not keep this district going financially,” she said. “It’s just a lot of money.”
Spearman also addressed parents who weren’t necessarily against the consolidation but asked why the middle and high schools needed to be closed in the process. She explained that if the schools weren’t closed now, the Florence School District 1 board would likely close them due to low student population.
“You have approximately 100 students who paid to go to Florence One because they did not feel the quality was what it needed to be here,” said Spearman.
Parents like Kirkland continued to voice their frustrations after Thursday’s meeting.
“All about money. They’re not worried about our kids,” she said. “If they were worried about money, all that money they’ll get to send our kids to Florence, they can put it in Timmonsville.”
It’s unclear what will become of the middle and high school buildings as of Wednesday. However, Brockington Elementary School will remain open as a magnet school. All students who aren’t graduating will also stay put next year.
Middle and high school students at FSD4 can choose which FSD1 school they’d like to attend next year. Spearman also said Thursday that no student will have to spend longer than an hour and a half on the bus.
Kirkland said that she and other parents plan to continue to fight against consolidation with the board members filing suit and others in the community.
“It’s just that pride. That pride Timmonsville has. I’m a Whirlwind all day,” she said.
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