Gettys building plan goes back to committee

By Nicole Daughhetee
Staff Reporter

EASLEY — Gettys Middle School and the School District of Pickens County’s building plan were the focus of much discussion among board members during Monday night’s scheduled board meeting.

Jennifer Graham, the parent of current and future Gettys students, addressed board members and requested that they review the plan previously voted on because she doesn’t believe that the plan meets the needs for the school or its students.

According to Graham, the plan does not adequately address safety measures or changes to the outside of the building or the roof, and if it is not reassessed, Graham fears that the two middle schools in Easley will be divided into the “the schools of have and have nots.”

“This is what we as parents in Easley feared when this project began,” she said. “What happened is you got to the end of your building projects, and Gettys got the short end of the stick, because you ran out of money. Our students deserve something better than what was presented at the last meeting.”

Newly reelected Easley SDPC board Trustee Judy Edwards echoed Graham’s concerns when she made a motion for the board to reevaluate the plans for Gettys Middle before moving forward with any type of construction.

“The board was not given enough information, or even the correct information. What we saw was not really correct for Gettys Middle School, and I think we need to review that,” said Edwards. “The pictures were red brick, and they looked wonderful, but this isn’t going to be red brick. I don’t feel that we understood enough of what we were doing and what we’re asking to be done at Gettys. We need to stop it right now until we have time to review it and decide if we are going in the right direction.”

Ben Trotter, who seconded Edward’s motion for the sake of discussion, agreed with his colleague.

“I, too, would like to revisit this thing and find out exactly what’s going on,” said Trotter. “I was not for having two middle schools. I was not on the board then. But we’ve got them, so we might as well do the best we can with what we’ve got.”

A consistent voice of opposition to the ever-expanding building program, Alex Saitta suggested that all the schools are not going to be equal, and there are simply some things that the people in Easley are going to have to learn to live with.

“When you look at how much is going to be spent on Gettys Middle School — $12.8 million — it’s almost equivalent to the $13.5 million that is going to be spent on the old high school. They’re comparable. They’re not equal. You’re not going to get equal. There are no two schools that are equal,” he said. “Pickens Elementary school looks just as old as it did in 1962, but no one is bringing it up. I haven’t pushed the issue, because the building program has gotten too expensive. How much do you want to spend on buildings?”

Edwards said that wanting to review the building plans for Gettys is not about making things equal. She simply wants to ensure that student safety is the No. 1 priority when Gettys is renovated.

“I’m not talking about being equal, Mr. Saitta, I’m talking about the safety of our children. We have in this plan chain link fences as our connectors, and that is not safe for our children,” said Edwards. “Everything that I have questions about is for safety and for a better plan for our children. I do not feel like we were informed enough at the beginning. I think we have the right to be informed and to see how these changes are going to affect our children”
Saitta believes that the only solution for the “problems” with Gettys is to spend more money, and to do so would not be beneficial to the SDPC.

“The only way this is going to get solved is more money, but who’s going to pay for it? The city of Easley? When Clemson wanted their high school gym, the city of Clemson stepped up and paid for half of it themselves. Who’s going to pay for this? Is the city of Easley going to step up and pay for the extra modifications? I seriously doubt it,” said Saitta. “It’s going to be paid for by Easley, but also by Six Mile, Pickens, Dacusville, Liberty and Clemson. At some point Easley has to realize that the requests have got to end, because the budget is limited.

“The original plan was to tear down all the old high schools. The ‘39 building was going to be torn down. Three or four years later, you have just the opposite.

People saying the building is a treasure. The board modifies the plan again for Easley,” said Saitta. “This is another request to do something else for Easley. When you continue to do things for one area, the other areas of the county who are paying for most of it are going to want to make requests too.”

Approximately $12.8 million dollars have been budgeted for Gettys renovations, and Saitta said that this money will go a long way toward renovations that exceed just being adequate.

“You’ve got to realize we are just educating children. We’ve allowed the standard of what our kids need to get way through the roof,” said Saitta. “Utility costs alone are up $800,000, which is equivalent to 15-20 teachers. We need to stop putting money into the building program. We’re going to be paying more and more for buildings and less and less for educating children.”

In a final 5-1 vote, SDPC board members are sending the Gettys building renovation plans back to the facilities committee so they can gather more information to make more knowledgeable decisions before going forward.

“Gettys and the way we’re doing it is not safe. I don’t see any harm in investing this and talking with (Gettys principal Mike) Corey. There are places in the building where you can see the sky, and that is not going to be efficient,” said Edwards. “We need to make sure we are doing everything to be as efficient and as safe as we can be. There is no harm in looking again.”