Don’t choose to close schools

I’m a retired teacher/librarian who, after five years of retirement, chose to go back to being librarian at Holly Springs Elementary in Pickens County. I thought about telling you how Holly Springs has been my family for over 36 years. How, after moving from Raleigh in 1979 and walking through the front door of the school, I knew I was home and would never leave. I could tell you how it is to live in the same community, go to birthday parties, attend church, go to weddings, baby showers, and, sadly, even funerals of our students.

Or, I could tell you of 25 years of teaching clogging at recess and after school to these children, of taking clogging trips with their families, and what good friends we still are. And, I could tell you of how proudly I’ve stood with our Holly Springs graduates at almost every Pickens High graduation since 1980. Last, I could say how the staff and faculty at Holly Springs have been the closest of friends.

Instead, I’m pleading to our Pickens County School Board members to find an alternate solution to closing our three mountain schools and reconfiguring seven schools in Pickens County. I truly believe that the wonderful people of Pickens County will be willing to pay $40-60/$100,000 home if it will keep our schools open. I also believe that there are other solutions such as the penny sales tax or even moving some district personnel into these schools which aren’t totally full.

Even though these seven schools make up less than half of Pickens County Schools and many of our tax payers don’t have school-aged children, the quality of education affects us all. Why even many of our esteemed seniors at Hagood Community Center (aka Pickens Senior Center) signed a petition for not closing the schools, knowing how important quality schools are to our communities.

During these times, we have been witness to the struggles in and even the breakdown of many of our families. In my 32 years of teaching at Holly Springs, I’ve seen over and over our teachers and staff giving love and attention to these children who are hurting or needing uplifting and encouragement. Especially during these early years of a child’s schooling it’s essential to educate them in an environment where they can feel loved, secure and successful. If these care givers, educators, and role models are taken away from our children, a huge void is left in their lives.

Researchers say that the emotional bond between student and teacher is of utmost importance in not only the students’ academic careers but their lives in general. I hope that our School Board will allow us at Holly Springs and these other schools to continue making a difference in these children’s lives.

I realize that it’s our School Board’s duty and responsibility to make this decision. But, closing schools, and therefore uprooting many children and destroying these small communities centered around their schools, should be the last option.

Finally, as a friend of mine who’s in city administration said, “I just hope the (School) Board remembers who their customers are.”

Betty McDaniel

Holly Springs

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