Proposal to close rural Rembert elementary schools draws concern surrounding student consolidation

REMBERT, SC (WIS) - A public meeting was held Sunday evening at Rafting Creek Elementary to discuss the potential closings of three Sumter County rural schools.

Over 250 people came out to voice their concerns about the possibility of the school district closing Rafting Creek Elementary school for the 2018-2019 school year.

The proposal, made by the Sumter School District, will create a Pre-kindergarten through 8th-grade school and close three rural schools: Rafting Creek Elementary, Delaine Elementary, and Mayewood middle school.

A local community group called ICAR, which stands for I Care About Rembert, created an alternative proposal to consolidate High Hills amongst Rafting Creek, Oakland Primary, and Shaw Heights.

Currently, High Hills, Oakland Primary, and Shaw Heights only enroll two grade levels per school.

The alternative proposal will serve PK-5th grade in hopes to create uniformity across the District.

The Sumter school board says Rafting Creek is unsustainable at the size they are at now and is hopeful consolidating the school will make it more successful in the long run.

"We have to put together a plan that is going to address the loss of population while keeping schools in our rural areas," Debbie Hamm, Interim Superintendent of Sumter School district, said. "So what we've proposed is to put an elementary school together with a middle school to form a K-8 school."

Parents are concerned that mixing elementary school children with 8th-graders will result in issues such as bullying seeing an increase in occurrences.

Monica Ransom, a parent of three Rafting Creek Elementary students, believes closing the school is "not a good idea."

"Putting the kids with the older kids, there is a concern for the bullying," Ransom said. "We have to think about you're going to mix those kids on the same bus."

ICAR advocates say the alternative proposal will help evenly balance the student population amongst schools across the district.

"This is not an appropriate environment for our kindergarten and elementary schools," Carlton Washington, ICAR Organizer, said. "They'll even be transported on buses with the middle school students as well. This is not a good look. Particularly when you have three schools six miles up the road who only serve two grades each."

There will be a school board meeting Monday at Crest Wood High School where they will further discuss the new proposal.

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