Darlington County Board of Education discusses future facility needs

By Melissa Rollins, Editor, editor@newsandpress.net

With a new superintendent on board, Darlington County School District is looking to the future. Ground was broken for the new Darlington-area school that will combine the populations of Cain and Brunson-Dargan Elementary Schools. New principals are in place at several schools. Now, Dr. Tim Newman wants to know what’s next for the district.

During a recent board work session, Newman talked with board members about updating a facilities study done in 2012.

“I spent some time cleaning out my office and I came across the Darlington County School Facilities Study done back in 2012; I believe that was Dr. Knight’s last year,” Newman said. “I had a chance to start reading through it and it was put together by one of our current architects. I have to tell you, a lot of what is in here made sense, the suggestions and the different possibilities and different scenarios that they were setting up.”

Newman said that the facilities study talked about a topic he and the board had been discussing: having a plan for the future.
“If you all recall, for the last few months I’ve been saying that we need a plan for the next ten years,” Newman said. “We’re building three schools now but we have fifty and sixty-year-old schools in the district that are going to have to be dealt with. What is our plan? If we don’t have a plan, we’re going to be in trouble. That plan comes from a facilities study and also a financial scheduling of how that can happen and how that can work over time.”

One of the possibility facility changes discussed in the study should look familiar to board members, Newman said.

“They talked about Cain Elementary and its different buildings and renovating them potentially which would have cost, according to the study, around $11.2 million,” Newman said. “Or, it says about building a new Cain and combining with Brunson-Dargan, that’s in this study here, and it says that that cost figure would be $18.6 million. That is where we are; that’s pretty stunning. It is six-years-old.”

Other items the board has discussed, like the early childhood program, are also covered in the study.

“We’ve talked about addressing our 4K and 5K students in the Hartsville-area, how that would look and what we would do if we were doing something differently,” Newman said. “Well, they talk about different scenarios for that and how it would look based on either additions or a different facility. There are many things that we’ve talked about even in my short time here that they’ve covered in here. They don’t say do this; they usually give three different options that could work for Darlington County School District.”

Newman said that he would be interested in having the study updated and board members agreed that it would be worthwhile to know where the district stands now, compared to six years ago.

“There appears to be a good bit in here that I think is very relevant to the discussions that we’ve been having,” Newman said.

Another subjects discussed during the work session was inter-district transfer students. Newman said that current district policy does not allow students living outside of Darlington County to attend any DCSD schools. The student population has been dropping over the last several years so board members might be interested in adjusting that policy, Newman said, as there seems to be interest by out of district students. Accepting these students would increase enrollment and would also increase money brought in by the district because out of district students would pay to attend DCSD schools. Several board members expressed interest in looking into the issue but also said that they had reservations about over-crowding of schools or other issues that could arise.

Author: Rachel Howell

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