NO NEW SCHOOL; Vote today if you live in District 55 and are eligible
UPDATE, D55 STATEMENT, TONIGHT: District 55 voters rejected a new Laurens District High School by a 6 to 1 margin.
The unofficial total from today's School Bond Referendum was 6,559 "no" and 1,961 "yes". About 77% of the people voting said "no" to the idea of building a new Laurens District 55 High School (current building constructed in 1972) and reparing other schools - no schools were going to close, according to D55 officials. There are 23,304 registered voters in the district.
Certification of the results will be done by the Laurens County Board of Canvassers.
Results from the vote today (Sept. 5) on a $109 million bond referendum for District 55, Laurens, will be on this newspaper’s website.
Based on unofficial totals, the result can be viewed on MyClintonNews.com. The contentious nature of the bond voting for the past several months has drawn attention from other area news media, as well.
Race came into play during the bond campaigning.
District 55 Superintendent Dr. Stephen Peters, who is black, said July 25, “If (white former superintendent) Billy Strickland asked for a new school, you’d already have shovels.”
David Kennedy, with a small group including children, picketed at the Confederate Monument in downtown Laurens Aug. 22 - with a “Vote No” rally going on across the street at The Capitol Theater - shouting into a bullhorn “I won’t be your (N-word)” and “Shame on you, racists.”
Other supporters said race had nothing to do with it. Instead, they said, students need opportunities to increase their earning potential and have 21st Century skills.
“I see signs regarding the September 5th vote stating that the $109 million bond will leave our kids with a greater debt. But if the kids here get a better education, their SAT scores will go up. If the SAT scores go up, and they leave high school with a better education, they are more likely to go to college, earn more money, and end up with LESS debt. With a better education, maybe a 2-year technical college will be more desirable. And with a 2-year degree, they will make more money, and the debt will be LESS. But even if they don't choose further education, they will be better educated, and make more money. More money means less debt,” said Richard Marshall (retired teacher) in a letter to the editor.
Opponents said fiscal responsibility, with no racial overtones, guided their efforts.
“I have developed an interest in where all the monies came from for the billboards, Vote Yes headquarters, and other activities. The taxpayers of District 55 have not been provided with this information. I realize this bond referendum may fail. If so, the same group who has presented us with this ill-advised/questionable recommendation will go back to the drawing board for another attempt. This board and their administration should NEVER be allowed to participate in any form or fashion of another plan to upgrade our education system. The public needs to start with a totally new group of concerned citizens that are not biased and which will be more deliberate, thorough and careful in presenting a proposal for the expenditure of public funds,” said Jayhue Weisner Jr. (former Laurens County Council member) in a letter to the editor.
A new Laurens District 55 High School would be placed (if the referendum passed) near the current school site, on Hwy 76 at Raider Road, according to five members of the District 55 board appearing in their roles as private citizens at a July 28 news conference.
The existing, pods-style building (1972) was to be converted for middle school use, and no schools were to be closed, the district said.
Opponents said building a new high school for Laurens would be the first step in busing elementary and middle school students from outlying communities - Waterloo, Gray Court - into central, Laurens-based locations.
Just across the border from Laurens County, Greenville Schools are constructing a Fountain Inn high school, taking enrollment pressure off Hillcrest High School in fast-growing Simpsonville.
District 55 officials said they were not trying to keep up with Greenville, but conceded that Laurens needs a new high school to remain competitive for quality teachers and students.
District 56 voters - Clinton, Joanna, Cross Hill - were not eligible to vote in the Sept. 5 referendum. A majority of these voters approved a bond referendum in 2005 ($48 million, nine projects) that built Clinton High School, which opened in August, 2010. The former CHS site is now Clinton Middle School.