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Letter to the Editor: “The only constant is change”





1. the action or process of making something stronger or more solid.

2. the action or process of combining a number of things into a single

more effective or coherent whole.

Dear Editor,

As a graduate of Barnwell County Vocational Center, Barnwell High School, and an instructor at the Barnwell County Career Center, I feel I have a unique insight to the value of a unified and consolidated education experience.

For decades, I have long believed that so much potential and effort is wasted through redundancy and lack of uniformity among the school districts. Nowhere is the contrast more vivid than in District 80. Yes, Barnwell County Career Center is indeed the fourth school district in Barnwell County. We serve three separate districts, though two now share at least a common grading platform.

Barnwell County Career Center serves three schools with three different routes, transporting from three locations, arriving at three different times, with three potentially different schedules due to testing, pep rallies, guest speakers, pictures, etc.

A typical class of one hour and twenty minutes is reduced to one hour of instruction based on simple transportation dynamics. That’s an impact of an additional class day per week lost on just arrival and departure times.

Imagine school “A” has testing on Monday. This removes one-third of the students from a particular lesson. School “B”? Testing on Thursday. One-third of the class is out. School “C” …the next Wednesday, but school “A” is having an early release day for a guest speaker that next Thursday which means that one-third of your class will be released 20 minutes early in the middle of whatever lesson you were planning on teaching.

So, before the question is asked, “What does that have to do with a singular school’s district?” Perhaps the question is, “Why not make three different career centers instead of one unified school district to serving individual districts more completely?” Therein lies the answer…how does tripling the expense of buildings, transportation, staff, and maintenance serve the community better? Triple the infrastructure and support staff for technology and computer support. Triple the resources required to educate the children, THE FUTURE, of our county.

That’s just the logistical operations side of things. Let’s look at the grounds and building quality aspects.

The career center is over 50 years old. Introduction of new technology with higher demands on bandwidth and electrical outlets, etc. have to be retrofitted into aging structures that require foundations to be reinforced. Each of the other high schools are currently facing the same challenges. Retrofitting, additions, and repurposing buildings that don’t fulfill the needs of the existing, much less upcoming demands of students or teachers are using funds that could otherwise be spent on technology, staff, and recruitment.

The argument of cost:

There have been discussions that “$100 million wouldn’t cover half of the cost of a high school that’s being proposed.”

Let’s assume that’s correct (though I disagree). When will the community have another opportunity to get a brand-new high school for half price?

“OK, where will the other half come from?”

My suggestion has been the “penny tax” option.

“Why should we be burdened with taxes to pay for a NEW school?”

My answer is:

1 – We found it acceptable to pay a penny extra for a courthouse, why not a resource for generations of our future?

2 – We are responsible and already pay taxes for our schools. Step it up and invest in something long overdue, and INEVITABLE.

Failure to do so leaves us at risk of losing $110 million dollars.

The question then becomes: “Why should the state be able to tell us how to spend our share of monies from a settlement?”

While I cannot disagree that it comes across as “overreach”, it doesn’t detract from the fact that this is very much needed and should be a priority as an investment in the community’s future. Consider that Barnwell County is in the state’s minority of non-consolidated school districts, and as such, is one of the lowest on the state’s budgetary considerations when school funding is doled out. Plainly stated, larger schools with greater numbers will receive greater funds.

“What about the jobs it will cost?”

There is no less need for skilled educators. It simply unifies their efforts and direction.

The maintenance, infrastructure support, etc. is streamlined to more effectively maintain something new instead of repairing something that is aged.

The newer structure would lend itself to a smarter design from everything to technological demands to security. The majority of buildings in use today are a logistical nightmare to secure and spread our law enforcement’s effectiveness thin by keeping them at four facilities instead of one. This also addresses the concerns about school rivalry: “Three schools that are rivals or have separate gang affiliations puts us at risk” – hogwash.

Barnwell Vocational/Career Center has been an example since its inception of how false that statement is. There are no more instances of conflict between schools than there are in individual schools. If anything, it fosters unity, NOT division.

The energy required to utilize four buildings that are up to 50 years old versus a newer, more efficient, better insulated, better constructed building can only be seen as a plus for the community. Additional grants and incorporation of technologies like solar panels to supplement the school’s need for energy would almost certainly be utilized, offering even more reason to embrace this opportunity.

The argument of student opportunities:

“Students that play sports or participate in band, etc. won’t have that opportunity or will lose their chance to shine for scholarships, etc.”

While it’s true that team sports have set numbers of players required on the field at one time, there is no limit to bench depth. Every larger consolidated school has access to a larger pool of talent that only strengthens their programs.

Something to consider: Barnwell doesn’t have a JV team this year because they don’t have enough players to support JV and varsity.

Lastly – tradition.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I understand the mindset of an ideal like “Once a Warhorse, always a Warhorse.” Each high school has a proud tradition with memories and unification of its students and staff.

Rightly so.

This “mindset” should never change…

However, each of us need to recognize this irrefutable fact: “The only constant IS change.” Those that embrace this change can mold and shape it as they take an active participant role in the consolidation of their schools. To be made to comply means relinquishing that ability to manage the direction of the restructure to a state governed mandate. None of us want that. To remain defiant or reluctant, as numbers at each individual school dwindle, making it not only effective but necessary to consolidate, is going to cost the community a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at a state-of-the-art education facility that will serve its children for generations to come.

Consider the impact the loss of our hospital had on our community, not only from the services, but to the recruitment of future businesses and families that relocate to the area for potential work. Understand that among the highest considerations for a family to relocate to the area, are how well the school facilities are rated.

We’re either growing on the vine or dying. Barnwell County is stronger together. “He who hesitates, is lost.”


Gibby Sanders