Originally created 01/13/02

School plan keys on location



Kori Mills has a proposition for anyone opposing the construction of a new centralized high school in Edgefield County.

Be in her shoes on a day when one of her children is at school and running a low-grade fever.

Ms. Mills works in Augusta and lives in the Merriwether community in southwest Edgefield County, and two of her children are in the ninth grade at Strom Thurmond High School - 22 miles from home. It is the only high school in the county.

It is the kind of drive time that gives her a headache but one that she endures.

The Edgefield County School District is entering the conceptual stages of building a new high school, and it held a public forum Monday night to hear from residents who live in the Merriwether community.

What they heard from parents living in the fastest-growing portion of Edgefield County was overwhelming support for the area to have its own high school.

However, the school board and the administration say the best thing to do is build a new, centrally located school in the U.S. Highway 25 and Vann Road area near the county's new industrial park, school board Chairman Brad Covar said Wednesday.

To the district, this is the population center of the county's pupils, Mr. Covar said.

"Where they're going to put it just means it's going to be farther for the people on the northern end of the county to drive, and it's not really going to help us all that much," said Robert Ross, a Merriwether resident whose son will attend Strom Thurmond in the next two years, 25 miles away from home.

School Superintendent Sharon Keesley said the process of planning and building a new school would take three to five years.

For the district, operating two high schools will cost an additional $2.5 million a year, and with fewer pupils at each school, the number of courses would decline, Mr. Covar said.

Building a new high school in the Merriwether community to accommodate 600 pupils would not address any renovations needed to the 40-year-old Strom Thurmond High School, which currently enrolls 1,000 pupils, Mr. Covar said.

"I certainly hope that everyone will look at this with an open mind," he said. "We have to do what's best for everyone in the county. That's our job."

Reach Carly Phillips at (803) 648-1395 or carly.phillips@augustachronicle.com.

What's Next: The Edgefield County School District will hold a public meeting for parent input at 7 p.m. Monday at Johnston-Edgefield-Trenton Middle School.