HAMPTON COUNTY, S.C. (WSAV) – Two Lowcountry school districts could soon become one according to a plan sent to the South Carolina Department of Education.
Hampton County 1 and Hampton County 2 are asking to combine their districts. That would mean the 19,000 person county would have only one school system for the first time in more than 50 years.
“You are looking at two school systems with 19,000 people in the county. Why?” asks House District 122 Representative Shedron Williams. “Our kids are separated then they end up at the car wash together, they end up at the convenience stores together and then they end up at USC Bluffton as roommates. I never understood it.”
“Parents see this as a way to have their students experience more of what the state has to offer and they shouldn’t be hindered by district lines,” said Ryan Brown, South Carolina Board of Education Spokesperson.
Right now Hampton 2 pays $2455 dollars per student to pay for their education. Compare that to Beaufort County which it only costs $474 per student.
“There is a massive amount of money that is spent on administrative costs in these small districts,” said Brown. “They have to have a superintendent, a procurement director a program director all these different positions and they are only serving sometimes, 600-1000 kids. So all that money is getting sucked up in administrative costs.”
Hampton 2 had only 719 students in their three schools two years ago. But the district office still had 12 staff members and a superintendent to oversee it all.
This plan would combine the two district’s staff only. No schools are expected to close; no teachers would lose their jobs.
“The idea is to level the playing field by cutting administrative costs and opening up the lines for students to participate in different programs,” said Brown.
Hampton County 1 currently supports almost 2,200 students at five elementary schools, a middle school and Wade Hampton High School.
Hampton 2 is home to Estill Elementary, Middle and High School.
Williams is from Hampton County and has been working on this proposal. He says its the best move for the future of the county:
“If we can get some of our students certified in various work fields before then even graduate from high school. We need to have these individuals. With major industry coming into the area to include the Jasper Port over the years. If we can get them ready it is going to trickle back down to Hampton and we need to have these individuals. If we can get them ready out of high school I think its a win-win for us.”
This was all made possible by $50 million added to the South Carolina state budget for small school districts. The money is to be used to equalize teacher salaries, pay off debts and update facilities in merging districts with less than 1,500 pupils.
$12 million of that is to be used directly for the cost of consolidation for those smaller districts.
The consolidation has been signed off on by Hampton County legislators —now it will have to be approved by each school board. If it is approved, then the merger should be finished in two to three years.