Fort Mill Times

Clover schools should resubmit bond plans

The result of the March 22 Clover School District $67 million bond referendum indicates a major part of the district does not support the proposals, including the 3,400 student high school and all the trappings surrounding it.

Last week, I offered background on the issue and what happened. Today, I talk about my view for the basis for what should happen now.

Providing the YMCA with an aquatic center under its control with public school money is not a proper or justified proposal. It is the only part of the overall referendum package thrown in at the last minute, seemingly for marketing purposes.

Portions of the campaign to pass the referendum were deceptive or incorrect. For example, the residents were told taxes would not increase as a result of the bond referendum, which is untrue. Clover School District officials said current bonding would retire before the referendum proposals were implemented, which is not true.

The ninth grade academy was presented as separate from the high school when the building proposed to house it is about 50 feet from the rest of the high school. “High School” statutorily in South Carolina includes grades nine through 12, not 10 through 12. Ninth-graders will ride the same buses. They will go to and participate in the same sports events and other extra-curricular activities. Ninth-graders will participate in advanced classes and utilize the Advanced Technology Center. In reality, there will not be meaningful separation.

The physical separation already exists through the separate ninth grade wing of the high school, and is illusory in terms of any real advantage. The text of the ballot didn’t mention the proposed resulting 3,400 student size of the high school.

It was said not passing the referendum would result in students attending class in mobile classrooms. Another untruth. The high school has enough capacity to contain growth for the next five to seven years.

Now we’re being told the proposed facility will never reach its 3,400 student capacity before another high school facility is built. Then why build it to that level? Another example of sloppy planning?

Residents were told $32 million of savings would be used to fund the $99 million proposal, along with $67 million of new debt. Another deception. The $32 million is unjustified and uncommitted taxes paid by the taxpayers at the rate of $5 million to $6 million per year. That’s more than $220 per year per registered voter in the district. Did you feel the savings?

Likely results

The conclusion of nationwide research regarding optimum high school size done by universities, state departments of education including South and North Carolina, and research organizations is high schools with more than 2,000 students are not a good idea. This research has been conducted in rural, suburban and urban environments. Monster high schools produce lower quality education, more discipline problems, less participation in extra-curricular activities, less student/teacher interaction and relationship, lower grades, lower graduation rates, lower college entry, lower test scores and a generally poor educational environment. The referendum result means Clover will likely be one of the largest high schools in South Carolina within the next 10 years.

Clover and Lake Wylie property values will suffer. It means Lake Wylie’s high school students will continue to face an almost 20-mile round trip to Clover every school day for an indefinite period.

Is that really what we want in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary?

Lake Wylie, with nearly 18,000 residents, is being denied a community focus and center for probably the next 25 years. This is tragic.

What now?

The school board should reconsider the result of the referendum due to its questionable nature, undesirable characteristics and likely negative impacts.

The new Lake Wylie elementary school, and the stadium and athletic field improvements can be done with existing funds. Those are the only urgent items in the referendum.

The rest of the plans should be resubmitted in a form that will produce the highest education quality, improving property values across the district and recognizing Lake Wylie’s right to be a true community.

Don Long is a Lake Wylie resident.