District focuses on fate of five ‘surplus’ schools

By Bobby Bryant

What do you do with five “surplus” schools?
That’s what the Darlington County School District is trying to figure out.
After students this fall move into the three new elementary schools that the district is building, five elementaries will be vacant:
— In Darlington, Brunson-Dargan Elementary will be empty after its students move to the new J.L. Cain Elementary. (The old J.L. Cain Elementary, right next door, will be demolished and turned into a parking lot.)
— In Hartsville, Washington Street Elementary and West Hartsville Elementary both will be vacant after their students move to the new Bay Road Elementary.
— In Lamar, Spaulding Elementary and Lamar Elementary will be unused after their students move to the new Lamar-Spaulding Elementary.
In all, the three new schools represent a $60 million investment (financed through a bond referendum). The five soon-to-be-vacant schools represent both potential and problems. “There’s a lot of different obstacles and opportunities,” school district Superintendent Tim Newman said during a Feb. 24 school-board work session.
The district basically has three options for the vacant schools: Sell them, demolish them or use them for district programs.
Selling them could be tough. Lamar Elementary, school board member Wanda Hassler said, is in “horrible” shape. Newman agreed that demolition might be the best option for that school. Others have other issues that could make a sale difficult; some of the schools are next door to other schools.
“I want to make sure I’m following the wishes of the board,” Newman said. “I definitely want to make sure we do what’s best for the communities. … Each building in each community is very unique.”
“I’ve heard from most of the folks at this (board) table that we don’t want to see a building become run down, dilapidated, an eyesore,” Newman said. “I think the intent is not to have empty, vacant buildings that would be an eyesore to the community.”
Newman said he’s talked to Darlington County officials about all of the schools that will be vacant and he’s had discussions with Darlington city officials about Brunson-Dargan. He said the county seemed to have little or no interest in the properties, although the city had “some general interest” in Brunson-Dargan.

Author: Stephan Drew

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