District officials confirm removal of equipment from closed schools

By Rocky Nimmons

COUNTY — Members of the Holly Springs and A.R. Lewis communities have recently shown concerns about the removal of items from the two former elementary schools despite a school board vote earlier this year that mandated that the two schools would be maintained for at least a year after their closure.

[cointent_lockedcontent] The two schools recently had their last classes after the Pickens County School Board voted 4-2 earlier this year to shut their doors for good.

A concerned local resident contacted the Courier earlier this week saying the district had “started to dismantle” Holly Springs.

“Light fixtures, kitchen equipment (and) interactive white boards are being removed, and this is contrary to the board’s vote to maintain these schools for one year,” the resident wrote. “(School board member) Philip Bowers made the motion to maintain based on a charter school locating there. The equipment belongs to the taxpayers of this county and should not be taken to auction for pennies on the dollar.

“This is a disgrace and shows how low the board that voted for closure will go.”

The Courier contacted both Bowers and Pickens-area board member Alex Saitta after hearing from the concerned resident.

Saitta, who said he had also heard items were being removed from the schools, said he would ask about the situation at an upcoming meeting.

Bowers said he had been at Holly Springs and A.R. Lewis on Monday.

“They are moving anything useful to other locations,” he said. “For example, the serving lines, which are on wheels, are following the children to the new locations. Same for library shelving and books. I didn’t see anything that caused alarm pertaining to the board’s direction to maintain the buildings for other uses, if that’s what the community decides on within the next year. The buildings will be cleaned and maintained such that other users could easily take over the building anyt ime if a sustainable agreement is reached between the parties.”

In a followup email, Bowers said computers and other technology were being removed from the schools “for other uses and safekeeping to reduce inducement to vandals and thieves.”

School District of Pickens County spokesman John Eby addressed the issue in a release sent to local media on Tuesday morning.

“Over the past few days, our operations and AITS departments have been in the process of moving technology, furniture and other resources from Holly Springs Elementary and A.R. Lewis Elementary to other schools in the Pickens area in order to serve students in the coming school year,” he said.

Eby said the school board voted to close the schools in March and to perform “minimal maintenance” on the buildings for up to a year after their closure.

“The district has committed to this maintenance obligation by assigning a part-time custodian to these buildings for the coming year and by budgeting for the costs of climate control and security systems to prevent damage from mold or vandalism,” Eby said. “Unfortunately, ‘minimal maintenance’ has been misinterpreted by some members of the community to mean that none of the resources or equipment at those schools would be moved to serve students at their new locations. This is not the case.

“The district has committed to keeping the closed buildings in good condition, but the resources at the schools will be used to serve students next year.”