HAMPTON COUNTY, S.C. (WTOC) - The state of South Carolina is putting aside $50 million to coax smaller school districts to merge.
One area buying into the consolidation is Hampton County school districts 1 and 2. The districts held their third joint school meeting Tuesday night.
In two years, school buses with Hampton County District 2 could be driving students in District 1. In fact, the two districts will start sharing special education services and food services this year.
“It’s easy to put on paper and say ‘we are going to do it,’ but now, we are making it happen,” said District 1 board member, Kari Foy.
By July 1, 2021, Hampton County plans to have one school district. Both districts sent their merge proposal to the state in August. Tuesday night, they planned on a job posting for a facilitator who can come in and lead the merge for the next two years.
“As we consolidate this school district, it’s to provide greater academic opportunities for our children, both for college and career readiness,” said Martin Wright, Superintendent, Hampton County School District 2. “I think now, operating as two separate school districts, it limits us.”
Along with student success, the consolidation also means more money. The two separate districts are already starting the process to share some federally funded programs to get their feet wet in working together.
“Can you imagine how difficult that must be for those commissioners when I go down and ask for a budget, and then Martin goes down and asks for a budget, and them trying to prorate funds between the two districts? When we are consolidated, it will be one effort,” said Dr. Ronald Wilcox, Superintendent, Hampton County School District 1.
Right now, there are two superintendents. When the new merged board is elected in 2020, they will hire only one superintendent.
This is a consolidation that the community has heard about for years.
“I’m just really excited for this consolidation,” said Hampton County alumna, Crystal Wooding. “It’s something that, as I said from 1994, if you look at the history of Hampton School District 1 and Hampton School District 2, we are both rivals.”
District 1 has more than 2,100 students, and District 2 has nearly 700. According to the superintendents, together they will still be small, but stronger.
“There’s also a tension with education and how those resources and assets are dispersed, so it will be nice to see how we bond together,” Wooding said.
The districts have pledged to meet once a month going forward.
Tuesday night’s meeting was held in District 2. The next will be held in District 1.