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School District Three bond referendum brings questions about how old is too old

Batesburg-Leesville, SC (Paul Kirby) – Like its larger cousin to the east in Lexington School District One, the leadership of Lexington School District Three is asking their citizens to vote Tuesday for approximately $90 million to build a new high school and make other improvements and changes throughout their district. Over the past few weeks, the opposed have made their voices heard by taking to social media and in other ways to say the district is asking for money it doesn’t need. Today, on a November day where rain is predicted for much of the day, voters have a right to say what type of facilities their children go to school in and how much they are willing to pay in taxes for that. How old is too old, and how many tax dollars are too many?

It seems as if the hub of the controversy is the new Batesburg-Leesville High School. The current school, some 43 years old,needs some major changes if they upgrade instead of rebuilding completely. The current school needs its roof insulated and then replaced. It also needs to have its heating and cooling system replaced, an upgrade of all its plumbing fixtures, an approved automatic sprinkler system for fire protection, upgrades to the existing restrooms to make them accessible to handicapped people, and a great deal more. There is also a real challenge when you park at the current school and that would be addressed if the bond passes.

At BLHS, one of the more alarming shortcomings right now, is its lack of security. Just walking in the front door gives you access to a main hallway that leads through the school. Someone bent on madness, or even someone who just has a bone to pick with one child or faculty member, has very little that will impede him from gaining entry quickly. The threat of a non-custodial parent disrupting the school by forcing himself to his child, even if they are a threat to that child, is probably more real than some mass shooting. This would all change if the bond referendum is approved. The professionals who were hired to study the existing facilities have estimated that upgrading B&L High School’s current building would cost approximately $67,502,175; That is more than Lexington One spends on a new middle school, for comparison.

The bond would also provide for improvements at Batesburg-Leesville Primary School. The original building was completed in 1984, and two classroom additions were constructed in 1986. Since then, an additional four classrooms were added in 1991, and the kindergarten wing was constructed in 2001.

Here to, the listed of needed improvements recommended by the consultant tasked with making this a school that meets the needs of the modern student is very long. That list includes a roof insulation system and new roofing, replacement of the HVAC system, plumbing fixtures upgrades throughout, installing new LED lighting systems for energy efficiency, a new acoustical tile ceiling system, upgrading power for technology like computers and tablets, and enclosing the Media Center (Library). It also is said to need an upgrade to its existing restrooms and additional public, faculty, and student restrooms along with security upgrades, and much more.

The VOTE Yes group has said these changes are needed and are more than they could provide using their 8% borrowing power of the district. That is 8% of the total assessed value of existing property within the district. It has been pointed out that even though the high school is only 43 years old, a major up-fit and renovation would be like putting a band-aid on cancer. You’d still have a 43-year-old building that would require over $67 million dollars to bring up to standard, then the bones of the structure, its core parts like walls, foundations, electrical systems and roof, would all need to be replaced anyway over the next several decades. Likewise, they YES folks say the upgrades to the primary school aren’t wants, they’re needs. The facilities were all built in an era when there were few or no computers, and now, your grandchild can operate one quickly and more efficiently than the parent or grandparent. Even though the buildings and what’s inside them don’t seem that old, imagine what’s changed over the last 30 or 40 years in the world.

In the case of District Three’s referendum, while this issue has been batted back in forth in some local media and debated over social media, it’s hard to find an organized group that has a NO Bond presence on the internet. Certainly, the NO folks are out there and exist, but they aren’t as organized it would seem as the group opposing in neighboring Lexington One. Perhaps that points to the core issue; many of the NO supporters think that getting back to basics and the push toward the new way of educating that relies heavily on electronics, the internet, and technology is the wrong way to educate. If that is the case and the world should stay as it has been in the past, there wouldn’t be a need for power system upgrades and new Media Centers that used to be known as libraries. Many over 50 went to schools with no air-conditioning, smart boards, or even an overhead projector in each room. Class size were 30 children and you did what you were told because of the fear of God and daddy if you didn’t.

District Three is small, it’s much more rural than its neighbors, but here too the invaders with the deep-pockets are coming from the north and east. They are buying the land around the shores of Lake Murray and building large, opulent homes. They are scarfing up the old peach orchards and in the place of trees, rows of look-alike homes now come out of the ground.

The town itself has seen a rebirth of Main Street in Leesville and now leaders have their sites trained on the same in Batesburg’s old business district. Those types of people, and some of the others who have seen the new educational techniques in action, want better for their children than they had. They understand LEED certification for energy efficiency, Chromebooks, the power of the world at your fingertips through the phone in your pocket, and what security needs to be in a modern-day society.

Here too, growth hurts, yet it’s coming. As the center of Lexington County builds outward, it has to go west or move outside the county’s lines. That’s where the property is that’s currently affordable and developers are eyeing that. Growth, much like a freight train, just rumbles along, but it’s hard to put the brakes on and bring to a stop.

Should you vote YES on the bond or should you vote NO. That is for each of you to decide personally. Upgrades will have to come to the schools one way or another. In a bond, everyone feels the pain. In 8% borrowing, just the businesses; It’s just a slower process of pain but painful none the less. Before you vote today, think about what you believe is right for you and the children of the community. Is it YES or is it NO. Push the button that corresponds with your beliefs, and then stick with it and be proud you voted. Whatever you do, don’t leave the decision to your neighbor and then complain later if things didn’t go your way. Make yourself educated about the issues, put on your raincoat and hat, and then vote.

Lexington School District Three has a page that explains the bond referendum and what it would mean for the people, the taxpayers, and the students. You can find that by clicking here: LINK

If anyone knows of an organized NO presence that has a Facebook or internet webpage, please e-mail that link to thelexingtonledger@gmail.com and I will attach that as well.

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