Hamm strikes one merger from Sumter School District consolidation proposal

Consultant says major facility upgrades would be needed at Rafting Creek-Hillcrest K-8 school

BY BRUCE MILLS
bruce@theitem.com
Posted 3/28/18

Sumter School District's interim superintendent is withdrawing for now one part of her draft consolidation proposal after obtaining information on extensive work necessary to upgrade one district middle school to accommodate elementary school …

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Hamm strikes one merger from Sumter School District consolidation proposal

Consultant says major facility upgrades would be needed at Rafting Creek-Hillcrest K-8 school

Posted

Sumter School District's interim superintendent is withdrawing for now one part of her draft consolidation proposal after obtaining information on extensive work necessary to upgrade one district middle school to accommodate elementary school students.

Debbie Hamm pulled a potential consolidation of Rafting Creek Elementary School into Hillcrest Middle School as a revamped K-8 school from her draft consolidation proposal for the time being on Monday after discovering earlier in the day of the facility requirements.

Hamm made the remarks Monday night as part of her interim superintendent's report to the district's Board of Trustees at its meeting at Crestwood High School.

Hamm explained in addition to major renovations this summer - to include more bathrooms for elementary school children - Hillcrest would require extensive Americans with Disabilities Act upgrades, a full architectural design and code analysis before the school could operate as a K-8 school at the beginning of next school year in August.

"This can't be accomplished in the time frame that we have been considering, and it may prove cost prohibitive," Hamm said. "As a consequence, I am withdrawing from the administration proposal the recommendation to consolidate Rafting Creek and Hillcrest for the time being."

Hamm received that renovation information from an independent consultant, Cumming Corp., based out of Columbia, that is conducting a facilities assessment study of the district's 26 schools.

In her revised proposal on Monday, Hamm requested the board affirm the need to address the low-enrollment issue at Rafting Creek and consider other alternatives after the district has the completed facilities study this summer. (Efforts to reach Hamm on Tuesday by 5 p.m. for additional timeline clarifications regarding Rafting Creek were not successful)

Rafting Creek Elementary's projected enrollment for next school year is 138 students in grades kindergarten through fifth, according to the district. During the 2006-07 school year, the school's official enrollment was 201 students, and five years before that it was 285 students in 2001-02.

Hamm's revised proposal still includes 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.

On Monday, Hamm also provided a proposal to the full board for moving Brewington Academy, the district's alternative school, currently on the Mayewood campus - since it could be closed. Hamm's plan is to add Brewington Academy to Hillcrest for next year as a temporary measure because Rafting Creek wouldn't be moving there at least for the time being. According to Hamm, Hillcrest was originally built as a high school to accommodate 1,500 students. As a sixth- through eighth-grade middle school, it has about 377 students, according to the district.

Monday was the first time board members heard Hamm's revised proposal. They discussed the original proposal and the revised proposal in open session for about 45 minutes after Hamm's report. They took no action on the matter.

Based on their comments in the discussion, board members seem divided on the consolidation proposal in general. Some spoke in favor of Hamm's proposals; others had concerns. Two board members expressed little or no comment on the proposals.

Monday's board meeting was held at Crestwood High School's fine arts center. About 25 community members were in attendance.

Also, Hamm provided in her report a summary of feedback from a series of six recent "community conversation sessions" that the district and board organized across the county to gather community input on Hamm's original proposal.

The board's next scheduled meeting is April 16. After Monday's meeting, board Chairman the Rev. Daryl McGhaney said he isn't sure if the board will have a special-called meeting before then to discuss the revised proposal and other issues, such as bus transportation, currently facing the district that arose from the community-input sessions.