Consolidation proposal headlines Sumter school board meeting

BY BRUCE MILLS
bruce@theitem.com
Posted 4/8/18

What will Sumter School District's Board of Trustees do with the district administration's school consolidation proposal is the big question heading into its upcoming meeting on Tuesday at Lakewood …

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Consolidation proposal headlines Sumter school board meeting

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What will Sumter School District's Board of Trustees do with the district administration's school consolidation proposal is the big question heading into its upcoming meeting on Tuesday at Lakewood High School.

A district staff member distributed the meeting agenda to the media last week.

The agenda states the board will take some action related to the proposal on Tuesday after returning from executive session behind closed doors.

Before that, in open session, Interim Superintendent Debbie Hamm will provide more information on the proposal during her regular report to the board.

At the board's last meeting on March 26, Hamm —– in her report to the trustees — pulled a potential merger of Rafting Creek Elementary School into Hillcrest Middle School as a revamped K-8 magnet school from her original consolidation proposal. Hamm said she did so after obtaining information from an independent facilities' consultant on extensive work necessary to upgrade Hillcrest to accommodate more students.

Following the March 26 meeting, Hamm said Rafting Creek Elementary would stay open for at least next school year in any proposal.

As of last week, Hamm's revised proposal still included the consolidation of Mayewood Middle School at the end of this school year into R.E. Davis Elementary School, which would become a revamped K-8 school with a magnet program curriculum, and the consolidation of F.J. DeLaine Elementary School into Cherryvale Elementary School as a combined elementary school.

Following Hamm's original release of the administration's draft proposal in early March, the district and board held a series of six "community conversation sessions" at different schools throughout the county to gather community input. Most community members in attendance at each session said they were opposed to closing any schools, partly due to their belief that the area communities would deteriorate with the loss of the schools.

The three schools originally proposed for closure all are low-enrollment schools and have faced significant enrollment declines in the last 10 to 15 years, according to official data.

When discussing the proposal at the March 26 meeting in open session, board members seemed mixed on the consolidation plan, based on their comments. Some spoke in favor of Hamm's proposals; others had concerns.

To accommodate potentially a larger number of community members in attendance, Tuesday's meeting will be at Lakewood High School's fine arts center. Like all board-related meetings, Tuesday's meeting is open to the public and public participation is listed on the agenda.