Horry County school board debates need for high school marching band uniforms

Grand Strand

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Horry County Schools approved its $683 million budget for next year, after a lengthy discussion about high school marching band uniforms.

Some HCS board members say they’re concerned about how old many uniforms are.

“We have schools throughout the district that are using uniforms 20-plus years old that were hand-me-downs from other schools,” said Ray Winters, who represents parts of Carolina Forest and Myrtle Beach.

The HCS board finalized the 2019-20 budget Monday night. It includes pay raises for all employees, hiring more staff and a comprehensive Kindergarten through 12th grade STEM program.

Monday’s main topic, however, was replacing marching band uniforms.

“Why I’m such a supporter is music lasts you all your life and band will last you all your life,” said Sherri Todd, who represents parts of Carolina Forest and Myrtle Beach.

One proposal was to spend $100,000 to get new uniforms for two schools each year, with any leftover money going to other band needs.

“We could start paying for travel,” said Holly Heniford, who represents parts of Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach. “A lot of times at away games, the only kids that are there are the band and they have to pay for their own bus.”

Another idea would have given a $5,000 stipend to all nine high school bands, but both proposals were narrowly shot down.

Those voting no say band uniforms, like equipment for other sports and clubs, are a need, but shouldn’t be rushed into the budget.

“When we look at it, we need to look at the bigger picture,” said Helen Smith, who represents parts of Carolina Forest, Socastee and St. James. “We don’t need to just choose one because it came to the table.”

Board chair Ken Richardson said he only first heard of issues with marching band uniforms about two weeks ago.

“Give us a little time,” he said. “I mean, it’s kind of hard to wait and we’re down to the last week of school.”

HCS says $200,000 for new band equipment is in next year’s budget. Chief financial officer John Gardner says it’s been an annual item since 2018.

Fine arts director Scott Scrivner says that only covers new instruments, not uniforms or other expenses like travel.

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