FSD1 Facilities Committee dissolved, causes controversy among board members

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – The Florence School District One Facilities Committee is facing controversy and confusion among its board members.

School Board Chairman Barry Townsend moved to dissolve the current facilities committee at the Oct. 12 school board meeting.

“I don’t believe the committee’s any closer to presenting a revised proposal for the board,” said Townsend at the meeting. “I believe it’s time to dissolve the existing facilities committee, I include myself in that and appoint three new members. Perhaps three fresh sets of eyes can see a way forward that we could not.”

The facilities committee is comprised of four school board members: Chairman Barry Townsend, Porter Stewart, Alexis Pipkins, and Bryan Chapman. Pipkins asked the other members at the board meeting if they knew the committee was going to be dissolved; Chapman answered yes while Stewart said no and that he did not agree with the motion. The announcement prompted Porter to leave the board meeting.

“As far as I’m concerned some of what has occurred over the last weeks with this board and the current leadership of this administration,” said Pipkins on Wednesday. “We’re on a course of dysfunction junction.”

Pipkins has served on the school board for 16 years and said it was not right for Townsend to dissolve the committee without letting the committee know before the meeting. He said he has put a lot of hard work, time, and effort into the facilities committee over the past few months.

“If the Chairman wanted to remove himself, he can remove himself,” said Pipkins. “I have no desire nor intent on resigning.”

In the past, the Facilities Committee has looked at four options:

  1. Building a new West Florence High School with major renovations and additions to South Florence High School and Wilson High School for a total of $120 million.
    1. Townsend said the concern with this option was the public might not support one high school being replaced and the other two being renovated.
  2. Building three new high schools at a price of $230 million.
    1. Townsend said there were numerous challenges with this proposal because the district does not have property to build three new high schools. He said if the district spent the $230 million on these three schools, there would not be money left for other facilities.
  3. Renovating all three existing high schools. Townsend said there was not a final price on this option, but was roughly estimated at $80 million.
    1. Townsend said the concern with this proposal was although the district could renovate West Florence, there is no way to increase capacity. He said expansion would not be an issue for the other two high schools.
  1. Renovating three existing high schools and building a smaller fourth high school costing $120 million.
    1. Townsend said the issue with this proposal was the question of where to build the new high school and posed the question would the district be benefiting its students by stretching its resources between four high schools rather than three.

Pipkins said it’s important for the public to come to board meetings and give their input.

“The public needs to become engaged, the public also needs to ensure that they are present and they are involved in what’s going on in the local school board,” said Pipkins. “To ensure that, number one, our tax dollars are not just in terms for building facilities, but to ensure that all of our schools for all of our students are being adequately funded in order to prepare them for the twenty-first century in the work force as well as college readiness skills.”

Townsend released this statement to News13 on Wednesday:

“I dissolved the existing committee last Thursday and named three new committee members, Will McLeod, John Galloway and Trisha Caulder. I’m confident that the new perspective they bring to the process will be very beneficial. No matter what the new committee recommends, the final decision will be made by the entire board, so everyone is still a part of the process.”