District's 'poor,' old schools prove consolidation is needed, leaders say

District's 'poor,' old schools prove consolidation is needed, leaders say

ORANGEBURG COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Governor Henry McMaster hasn't yet decided whether or not he'll sign a somewhat controversial bill that would combine Orangeburg County's three school districts.

"I would ask him to please sign this bill into law," said Vernon Stephens, the Vice Chair of the Orangeburg Consolidated School District Five's board.

Stephens wants the county's three school districts to combine into one.

"Throughout the county of Orangeburg we deserve better," he said.

Stephens said consolidation would put the county on a level playing field, free up resources, and help improve schools like Sheridan Elementary.

At Sheridan, WIS spent the Wednesday morning with Principal Sammie Gordon, Jr.

"You can see where the floor is kind of buckling a little bit," Gordon, Jr. said. "Take a look at this here from a structural aspect."

Gordon said leaky roofs, old bathrooms, and weather-prone hallways are costing his teachers valuable time teaching students.

Parents of those students want a new building, he said.

"Just like any parent, if you have a child, you want to make sure your child is going to a facility that's going to be conducive for them to learn in," he said.

A South Carolina Department of Education document backs up his claims.

The assessment from March 2017 says the 57-year-old school has a poor roofing, windows, bathrooms, and HVAC. Of the features that weren't poor, most were marked fair.

In fact, facilities across the district racked up only a handful of "good" grades.

"Districts have the lowest scores for building security and life safety indicators that include physical building security, fire alarm and fire sprinkler systems," the South Carolina Department of Education wrote of all the districts studied in the assessment.

Gordon has all of that in the back of his mind as hopes Orangeburg's three the district will soon team up into one.

"It'll get us on an equal playing field where we have to provide the same opportunities to our students," he said.

However, even if the three Orangeburg districts consolidate, facility improvement will take time.

A transitional government would be set up ahead of the July 2019 consolidation. Stephens said it'll be important for parents, even those who didn't support consolidation, to become stakeholders in that lengthy process.

Here is the assessment as mentioned above: 

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