Cherokee Co. Council discusses turning elementary school into jail annex

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CHEROKEE CO., S.C. (WSPA) – Three elementary schools in Cherokee County will soon be closing and many have wondered what will be done with those buildings.

Well, after a county council meeting, there’s now talk of possibly turning one of those schools into a jail annex.

Alma, Goucher, and Mary Bramlett elementary schools will close before next school year and the affected students will merge with other schools in the district.

But a lot of folks have asked, ‘What will be done with the school buildings once they’re closed?’

While it’s in the earliest stages, and just being discussed as an idea, the county and the sheriff’s office are hoping to work out a deal with the school district to turn Alma Elementary into a jail annex.

“It certainly gives us room for expansion without breaking ground with brick and mortar and spending upward of maybe 30 million dollars,” Cherokee County Sheriff Steve Mueller said about the proposal.

The county believes this idea could put the building to good use while saving taxpayer dollars.

“Nobody wants to spend tax money on detention centers, but, unfortunately, it’s necessary,” Cherokee County Administrator Steve Bratton said.

The county told 7 News they’re seeing a lot of growth and, with that, comes more inmates.

“With that comes new people. With that comes more call volume. With that comes increased crime,” Sheriff Mueller said.

A jail annex, the sheriff said, could alleviate a re-occurring issue at their current jail.

“The number of inmates that come into the facility, the number of arrests, we know the inmate population is not going down,” he said.

In fact, Sheriff Mueller said overcrowding has been a problem for them for several years.

“It is built and designed for 150, but right now, we’re running about 210 or 215,” he said. “And we’ve been as high as 308, prior to COVID striking a little over a year ago.”

Alma Elementary isn’t far from the current detention center, and Sheriff Mueller said the old school could house non-violent offenders.

“All of our trustees, all of our low-risk prisoners over there,” he said. “Maybe even putting all of the females over there and only keeping the high-risk ones here at the current facility.”

It’s important to note that the elementary schools that are slated to close have not been put up for sale just yet.

We reached out to the school district, but we were told they don’t have any comment at this time.

We’ll continue to follow this story and bring you updates as we learn them.

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