District one gets $999,993 grant

Hampton District One school board receives large facilities grant which will act as “as shot in the arm” for district repairs, updates.

Hampton District One Superintendent Dr. Ronald Wilcox recently outlined a $999,993 facilities grant courtesy of a lawsuit by multiple South Carolina rural school districts known as the Abbeville Lawsuit, of which the district was a participant.

The money gained by the district has already been accounted for and appropriated to fund the completion of several projects.

The district will spend $198,722 to renovate outdated bathrooms at six schools, $23,450 on the installation of entry buzzers at six schools, $93,647 to provide surveillance equipment for all schools, $25,000 to install handicap ramps to meet state requirements at Wade Hampton High School, $41,756 to replace the roof at Brunson Elem., $46,200 for a new roof for the BES gymnasium, $94,022 for a new roof at Ben Hazel Primary and $214,896 for a new roof at Hampton Elementary. Portions of Brunson’s and Ben Hazel’s roof have been previously updated.

Another big aspect the district hopes to improve upon with the grant funding is student comfort while at school. According to Wilcox, student ease is greatly promoted by way of fresh paint and updated facilities. As well as providing students with upgraded classrooms, the grant funds will help allow the district to hire/retain teachers. The hiring of more teachers will allow district students to learn in smaller classrooms settings, creating fewer distractions for students and aiding in the education process.

“The board has a goal of improving the classroom environment so that it is conducive to learning. We do not want impediments in the classroom to keep children from learning, such as a noisy air conditioner or one not working, or a heat system that doesn’t work or things of that nature that make a child uncomfortable so that they can’t learn. And we want a classroom to be aesthetically appealing. That means paint, so that they [students] can come in and take a look at their school and take pride in it and help take care of it….If you let a school run down, children are not going to have any pride in it and are not going to keep it looking good.”

The district plans to repair and replace outdated heating and air-conditioning units. As well as improving student comfort, the new units will also provide improved air quality for teachers and students, alike. The $214,200 it will take to replace the HVAC units will also come from the recent grant.

Further grant-funded updates include the replacement of an outdated gas oven at Hampton Elementary School at a cost of $23,500; the replacement will improve both safety and efficiency. WHHS will receive upgraded natural gas connections in the school’s science lab, which will increase safety for students at a cost of $5,000. Finally, handicap ramp covers to meet safety regulations will be installed above all district ramps, at a cost of $19,600.

The grand total of expenditures for the updates totals $999,993, the total amount of the grant.

“It is a major shot in the arm of the district,” said Wilcox. “We will continue to apply for additional grants to continue to improve district facilities.”

He went on to say that, “Rural poverty-stricken school districts do not have the funds that the larger, more affluent have. We don’t have the sales tax base or the industry.”

“Since you don’t have all the sales tax and the growth, the only way you can raise revenues for schools is to raise property taxes. And it’s difficult to raise property taxes; it’s just a phenomenon you have to deal with,” said Wilcox of funding school districts in areas of stagnant economic growth.

“I give the board credit for being a progressive and supportive board and wanting to see these things fixed up,” concluded the superintendent.