Politics & Government

LANCASTER COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD: Three vying for seat look to election with eye on growth

Editor's Note: This is one in a series of articles looking at local races in Tuesday's election.

INDIAN LAND -- Three Indian Land residents are vying for a single Lancaster County school board seat in Tuesday's election, while three other candidates face no opposition in their quest for other seats on the board.

Incumbent Brian Carnes and newcomers Thomas Bell and Don McCorkle hope to win the District 1 seat.

Janice Dabney, Bobby Parker and Mary Taylor are unopposed in their quest for seats in their districts, 5, 3 and 7, respectively.

McCorkle and Carnes said they are concerned about student growth.

"We're right in the middle of a growth spurt," McCorkle said. "What we're doing now may not be sufficient for five or 10 years down the road."

The Lancaster County school district, comprised of 20 schools and an early childhood education center, is home to an estimated 11,200 students. Yet, space is limited. To that end, the district is working on an immediate remedy: It's building.

"We have exceeded the capacity of the current high school by about 75 to 100 students," Carnes said. "We have a new high school that will have a capacity for about 800 students, which is about 300 more than the current high school enrollment."

The $22 million school is slated to open this fall, said David Knight, the district's public information officer. Other plans include converting the current high school into Indian Land Middle School, which is expected to open in January 2008. In addition, about 35 acres were purchased for nearly $1 million in the Indian Land community for a future school, Knight said. The land sits north of Andrew Jackson State Park and south of S.C. 75.

While Bell is concerned about growth, he's also concerned about statewide dropout statistics, which show more than 25 percent of students entering kindergarten in South Carolina drop out of school.

"The dropout rate is way, way too high," Bell said. "It should be in the single digits at most."

Bell said social promotions do not correct the problem.

"They are adding to the situation where students are getting into the ninth grade, and they know they can't complete school successfully so they're drop out," Bell said.

He wants to focus on students grasping vital skills as early as kindergarten.

"We're going to do everything right starting in kindergarten," Bell said. "They will stay in kindergarten until they master the skills necessary to promote to the first grade, and so on."

School board members serve four-year terms. They receive $100 for each regular meeting they attend. They also can receive $50 per special meeting they attend.

Polls will be open in Lancaster County from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. For details, call the Lancaster County Registration and Elections Office at (803) 285-2969.