TIMMONSVILLE, SC (WBTW) — Education officials held a virtual meeting Wednesday to discuss the future of Florene County School District Four.
The district serving Timmonsville has faced a shrinking student population and financial issues in recent years. The state took over control of the district about two years ago.
State Superintendent Molly Spearman spoke to dozens of community members through the online format Wednesday, guiding them through the challenges faced by Florence Four.
She believes a consolidation with Florence One Schools must be considered, and expressed her concern over the sustainability of Timmonsville High School.
“The community has to understand this is about the money to run the school,” Spearman said plainly. “And I’m telling you it’s almost impossible to keep it going with the size with the taxes being paid now.”
Spearman said the district doesn’t have the state-required amount currently in its funds. She outlined numbers that show a rising cost per student, and an overall smaller enrollment than from a few years back. It currently sits at 663, slightly up from last year.
“If you get down below 1,000 students in your district, you’re going to have a really, really tough time,” she said. “Unless you’re willing to raise your taxes, very very high.”
She did note though the district has made some recent academic strides, but it still faces enrollment and financial issues.
That’s why she wants to consider the consolidation. She worries about the high school being feasible especially.
“It’s going to be very difficult to us to continue operation, hire the teachers we need and give our students the opportunities they need when they graduate from high school,” she said.
Some community members and leaders made comments and brought up concerns, including Timmonsville mayor Darrick Jackson and Representative Robert Williams.
One of the concerns was about transportation and what would happen if the high school were to close, sending students elsewhere. Spearman said the state would provide transportation as mandated, but a solution would need to be worked out for extra-curricular activities.
“If we do consolidate with Florence 1 and if the high school is closed, there would have to be a committee of folks put together,” she said.
Senator Kevin Johnson also called in to voice thoughts he’s heard, including pleas to keep Timmonsville High School open.
“The overwhelming statements made to me is, ‘Let’s consolidate, but let’s not close the high school,'” he said. “So I’d like the state to look and see if there’s any feasible way we can consolidate with Florence One and keep Timmonsville high open.”
No final decisions have been made about this matter. Spearman said there wouldn’t be changes to the elementary and middle schools. She added she hopes to have a final decision made by January. Count on News13 for updates.
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