ORANGEBURG, SC (WIS) - Hundreds of people attended a public meeting Monday night to weigh in on whether Orangeburg county's three school districts should become one.
Staff at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College had to find a bigger room for the large crowd. Throughout the evening it was clear that public opinion is divided on the proposed bill in the state legislature that would make the consolidation happen.
"I'm really afraid that if this consolidation goes through we're gonna lose students," said Lisa Chavis of Cope, who attended the meeting, "because I've already had people tell me that if this consolidation goes through they're pulling their students."
Opponents of the bill, which is currently up for a third reading in the South Carolina House of Representatives, feel it could result in higher taxes, a loss of jobs and the possibility of some schools in the county closing. Members of Orangeburg County's legislative delegation hosted Monday's meeting. Several said they will consider all of the public input it generated as they decide what to do with the bill in the coming days.
"We have clear language that before that would ever happen before a school would ever close, you'd have to have three public hearings and a referendum of that area," said state representative Russell Ott of Calhoun in defense of the bill. "That's pretty strong language to prevent a school from ever closing."
For now, some who were in attendance say they will keep an open mind on the issue.
"If consolidation would mean that a lot of people were fighting for great school conditions and awesome extra-curricular programs and best practices in teaching for all the students in this county," said Laurie Sibley of Orangeburg, "then I think that could be a good thing."