Jasper County Superintendent talks about possible consolidation

JASPER CO., SC (WTOC) - Dr. Vashti Washington says she understands the emotional ties to the schools but she says changes need to be made to help save money and better educate the students.

Dr. Washington says not only did the school district lose a big chunk of their state funding this year, but at the end of next school year, their large School Improvement Grant worth $1.5 million a year will run out as well.

She also says since the expected population growth in Hardeeville didn't happen like many predicted, the property tax revenues have suffered, not to mention there are a lot of empty seats in Hardeeville Middle and High School. Currently, there are only about 550 students attending Hardeeville Middle and High School, which is about 400 less than in Ridgleand.

Washington says because of the low attendance at the school, it's costing the district thousands more to educate middle and high schoolers in Hardeeville than in Ridgeland. They also aren't able to offer as many college prep classes there either because of the cost. However, Dr. Washington says combining the middle and high schools would offer students more opportunities.

"My belief system is that all students should receive a quality education and what's good for the children in Ridgeland should be what's good for the children in Hardeeville. We can't afford to replicate identically what we have in Ridgeland in Hardeeville," said Washington. "We just can't afford it.

Dr. Washington says while she is proposing to consolidate the schools, the school board would make the final decision. Right now, it's all still up for discussion and she says they haven't made any decisions as to where the students would be housed if they combine the middle and high schools.

Parents and members of the community will have a chance to voice their opinions at a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 26 at the Hardeeville Multipurpose Room on the Hardeeville School Campus.

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