Laurens Co. Dist. 55, 56 officials respond to proposed consolidation bill

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LAURENS COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – Laurens Schools Districts are responding to a bill filed that would create a single school district in Laurens County.

The bill states it would get rid of both Laurens District 55 and Laurens District 56 and consolidate the schools.

According to a Laurens District 56 news release, the bill calls for a “Laurens County Consolidated District” to form starting now through 2021, and is sponsored by Rep. Michael A. Pitts from District 14.

The Senate will next consider the school district consolidation on May 1.

On Friday, both school district’s school board chair issued releases about the bill.

Board chair Susan Calhoun-Ware with Laurens County School District 55 said while the school district is concerned about the bill, they remain committed to not allowing those actions distract them from their testing period.

“While the timing and communication of the initiative is unfortunate, we must continue to concentrate on the safety, security, and advancement of our students and our schools,” Susan Calhoun-Ware, board chair of Laurens County School District 55 said. “Right now, we want to have a strong finish to the year. We do not want the Class of 2018 to be overshadowed by politics or uncertainty.”

“Our current areas of concern are the tests our students will be taking over the next few weeks and our search for the best and the brightest teachers we can find in this critical era of teacher shortages,” Terri Martion, board vice-chair said. 

Laurens County School District 55 serves the Laurens, Waterloo, Gray Court, Hickory Tavern and their surrounding residents in the northwestern half of Laurens County, according to the news release.

Laurens County District 56 Board of Trustees Chairman Jim Barton said in a news release that “it is of great concern that this legislation was proposed without any warning or discussion in the community. This bill has caused a lot of distraction at a time that we are fully engaged in the activities and challenges that culminate every school year, and unfortunately, none of us in Laurens 56 knows the intent of the consolidation.”

“Over the course of the last 24 hours, the School Board and Dr. O’Shields have been very active in understanding and intervening in this legislative process as much as we can having had no notice about the bill being introduced. Our school system is in close communication and unified with Laurens District 55 in voicing concerns,” Barton said. 

Barton said the school district in the meantime will continue the planning, programming, teaching, testing, building and nurturing of its students in District 56.

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