Parents, teachers react after school board votes to close 3 schools in Cherokee Co.

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CHEROKEE CO., S.C. (WSPA) – Three Cherokee County elementary schools will be closed next school year after the school board voted to merge them with other schools.

7 News spoke with parents and teachers about the consolidation.

“I’m a proud Goucher Gorilla,” Jimmy Lamb said.

As the Goucher-White Plains Fire Chief, Jimmy Lamb works right next door to Goucher Elementary School. That’s where his kids go.

“When you go to the school, you feel welcomed. Everybody knows your name,” he said. “My little girl–every teacher in that school knows her name, they know her family, they probably even know what she was on Halloween.”

But, on Monday night, the Cherokee County School Board voted 8-1 to close Goucher next school year and put those students at Limestone-Central Elementary. They also voted to close Mary Bramlett and Alma elementary schools. Those students will merge with B.D. Lee Elementary and Luther Vaughan Elementary respectively.

“This is a great opportunity for our district to grow and excel and push our students towards excellence,” Leslie Ellis said.

Leslie Ellis teaches first grade at Mary Bramlett and has been there for 10 years. She said she’s all for the consolidation.

“Of course, I’m going to miss the building, but, to me, it’s just a building. I’m still going with my teachers and I’m still going with my students,” she said. “To me, a building is nothing compared to the memories, the children, and the student relationships that we all have. They’re still going with us.”

“It’s been said that a school building is just walls, but that’s absolutely not true. A school is made up of the people inside that building,” Lamb said.

District officials told 7 News that the consolidations were based on enrollment at each school, and they told us that no school employees will lose their jobs in the mergers.

“I think the resources and having the extra manpower in the schools will be so much better for, not only our teachers, but our students as well,” Ellis said.

District officials told 7 News at least $1.5 million will be saved by consolidating the schools. Ellis said she believes the consolidation will bring about more opportunities for students as board members said the money saved from closing the schools will be used for student programs.

“Especially one of my programs, which is ‘Reading Recovery.’ it is a one-on-one intense reading program that helps students, who are behind in reading, excel and catch up to their peers,” Ellis said.

“While programs are good, our people are what matter,” Lamb said. “If I am that concerned about my elementary school-aged kid learning a foreign language, I will buy her Rosetta Stone.”

For those concerned about space, school board members told 7 News that modular classroom units will be purchased.

But some parents say that’s not good enough with the Coronavirus still around.

“Double the number of kids in a school building in the middle of a pandemic, at a time when we’re expected to social distance and are recommended to have half the number of people in buildings,” Lamb said.

Lamb told 7 News he’s done his research and believes whole-heartedly that smaller schools provide better learning environments for students.

“Because the school district chose to not listen to us and to not listen to our concerns, we’re going to make sure now that our voices are heard,” he said.

Lamb said he and parents from all affected schools will be holding “SOS” meetings–“SOS” standing for “Save Our Schools.”

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