Parents address school board over proposed closings

By Ben Robinson

Staff Reporter

COUNTY — Monday night, parents from Ambler, Holly Springs and A.R. Lewis, the three mountain elementary schools on the chopping block under a School District of Pickens County proposal, spoke at the monthly meeting of the Pickens County School Board.

Parents will have more opportunities to speak at special called meetings with district officials on the next two Tuesday nights at 7 p.m. in the board room at the district office.

Board chair Judy Edwards pointed out at Monday night’s meeting that board rule allows members of the public to address the board for three-minute speeches, totaling 30 minutes. Edwards led the board to vote to suspend the overall time limit on speeches so that all who were present would be assured of the chance to speak.

The board had 11 speakers signed up to talk.

Alicia Gilcrease, representing Ambler, was the first speaker.

“Elementary schools set the foundation for a career in education,” Gilcrease said. “Ambler helped shape me into the person I am today.”

Gilcrease said her daughter faced challenges when she began elementary school, but the staff at Ambler worked with her, and before long she was named a “Terrific Kid” in K4. Her grades have continued to be impressive.

“As a child, I had a reading disability,” Gilcrease said. “But not one time did I feel less intelligent than my classmates.”

Next up was Janet Hardin, who said she was speaking for all three “mountain schools,” as she has taught music at all three.

“Ambler is a community, and the school’s place is in the community’s trust with its future,” Hardin said. “Its most precious resource is its children.”

Hardin remembered when Ambler was consolidated from three mountain schools — Ambler, Griffin and Oolenoy.

Amanda McMason said said she is a single mother of two little girls attending Ambler.

She said her daughters came home crying when they heard that Ambler could close next year.

“They think Mama can do anything,” McMason said, “so here I am.”

McMason said that the day after her daughters miss school due to illness, she can expect a call from the school nurse, checking on them.

“Every day I face 1,000 worries about 1,000 things,” McMason said. “One thing that never crosses my mind is ‘Are they OK at school?’ Because they’re at Ambler, and I know they’re safe.”

School board approves calendar for 2016-17

The Pickens County School Board approved the calendar for the 2016-17 school year at its meeting Monday night.

The calendar includes a week off for Thanksgiving Nov. 21-Nov. 25.

The first day of school is set for Aug. 16, and graduations will be held Saturday, June 3, 2017.

Spring break is set for April 10-14, 2017.

Three days are set aside as inclement weather make-up days: March 17, April 17 and June 8.

The last day of school for students will be June 7, 2017.