District paying $1.6 million for U.S. 52 land
By Bobby Bryant, Editor
The Darlington County School District is paying $1.6 million for the 112 acres of land the district is buying off Governor Williams Highway/U.S. 52.
During a school board work session May 23, county Education Superintendent Tim Newman provided additional details about the purchase that the board OK’d May 9. Newman has described the land as “contingency” property the district could use in many ways.
However, the vote has alarmed opponents of a proposal to merge St. John’s Elementary in Darlington with Rosenwald Elementary/Middle in Society Hill and build a new school in the area.
At the work session, Newman disclosed the purchase price of the land — $1.6 million – and the location – 2300 North Governor Williams Highway/U.S. 52. The name of the previous owner has not been made public yet.
However, the Internet lists the same address for Sun Construction, owned by Marshall Flowers. A call to Flowers had not been returned by press time.
The property “has a main office building, with seven or eight offices in it,” said school district spokeswoman Audrey Childers. “A conference room, bathroom and kitchen. An enclosed bay for large equipment to be serviced. It has a hydraulic lift. It also has two very large sheds that can house tractors and maintenance vehicles and some storage units.”
The buildings were included in the purchase price. Newman has said that one initial use for the land likely will be centralizing some of the district’s maintenance operations.
The school board is considering a proposal to close two historic schools – St. John’s and Rosenwald – and merge them into a new $30 million school, presumably somewhere between Darlington and Society Hill. After hearing of the land purchase, Darlington County historian Brian Gandy, an opponent of the merger, said: “That’s it. I guarantee you that’s it.”
Newman and the board members say the merger remains an open question, and no decisions have been made. The board has never voted on the merger. There is no deadline for a decision on the merger idea.
The land the school district purchased is closer to Darlington than Society Hill. The Internet estimates the property is seven minutes, or 5 miles, from Darlington, and 14 minutes, or 12 miles, from Society Hill.
The merger was not brought up during the board’s work session last week. Nor was the vandalism May 12 at Darlington High School, when about 30 students entered the building without permission after hours, the district said.
Some of the students have said that they considered the whole thing a “senior prank,” and that an “administrator” at the school gave them “permission” to be in the building. There are widespread rumors that an employee let the students in; some accounts have mentioned employees by name.
However, the district has determined that no adults were inside Darlington High at the time, Childers said last week.