School board votes to save EHS buildings

EASLEY — After an outpouring of support from community members to save a 1939 Easley High School building, the School District of Pickens County’s board of trustees voted unanimously last Tuesday night on a revised construction plan that will do just that and more.
At a packed school board meeting on Monday, Jan. 23, a large group of members of the Easley community — now known by the moniker “39ers” — came to vocalize their opposition to the demolition of the historic 1939 building at Easley High School, which had been scheduled to be razed during the transition of the high school into a new middle school.
Despite protests, the public was told that night that the demolition plan for the 1939 building had been set into motion nearly a year before and that there was not enough time or funding in the budget to save the building.
But during Tuesday night’s special called board meeting, superintendent Dr. Henry Hunt announced that district building coordinator Bob Folkman and architect Bryan Dykeman had gone back to the drawing board after hearing from the concerned Easley residents, drafting a plan that would allow SDPC to save the 1939 building without incurring additional costs.
“After our last meeting, we have gone back and looked at different options where we are looking at renovating the 1939 building,” Hunt said. “Architects have worked on this, (as has) Bob Folkman. Both options fall within the funds we’ve designated for the project.”
Option 6, the one recommended by Hunt to board trustees, includes renovation of both the 1939 and 1979 buildings in addition to saving the gymnasium and auditorium at EHS.
“I can assure you the renovation of one or both would be a quality building,” said Hunt. “Renovating the 1979 building would give some additional classroom space if need be. We would spend less money and end up with more space.”
Trustee Ben Trotter said that it originally cost $5 million to build the 1979 EHS building.
“If it was good then, I can’t see tearing it down now and wasting $5 million in taxpayers’ money,” said Trotter. “I will support and vote for keeping the 1939 and 1979 building.”
“It was a year or so to come up with the original plan, and it’s been a week to come up with this one,” board member Jimmy Gillespie said. “This whole process has been a little funny.”
Gillespie also pointed out that the plan to demolish the 1939 building has been public for almost a year now. He said if people wanted to save the building, a year ago would have been the time to do it.
“It’s not going to cost more money, and everybody will be happy,” Trotter said. “This is the best plan we can get for the teachers, students, and the Easley community.”
Board chair Alex Saitta expressed concern that the new renovation plans that save the 1939 and 1979 buildings will create disharmony because one middle school is different from the others.
“You’re going to be creating a middle school that is different from the others. It will have an auditorium and a stadium,” said Saitta. “We had similar issues with the Pickens High School auditorium. The Pickens High auditorium had to be torn down. What do I say to those people? What do I say to them tomorrow morning?”
“I don’t think you tear something down to make something equal,” board member Judy Edwards said. “That’s what you tell them.”
Hunt pointed out that while it would be ideal for all of the schools to be completely equal, that simply is not going to be the case. However, as with every other school in Pickens County — the auditorium at EHS will be available to other area schools as well.