Board continues to delay action on mold in Bennettsville Intermediate School

MARLBORO COUNTY, SC (WBTW) – A heated Marlboro County School board meeting left some Bennettsville Intermediate School parents disappointed Monday night.

Timothy Dupree’s 9-year-old daughter is in the third grade at Bennettsville Intermediate.

“I expected them to make a decision because earlier in the year. They came together and they put together a plan, so tonight I thought that they were going to make a decision to move the kids for the beginning of next year or whatever they needed to do for the kids’ safety, but no reaction, no plan of what they would do,” Dupree said.

The meeting began with a presentation by Deputy Superintendent, Dr. Rippin McLeod, Jr. He presented a potential sketch of what Bennettsville Intermediate would look like with additions to the school. He said the blue rectangle represents new classrooms and the cafeteria would be moved to the blank area where the blue touches the side of the current building. Dr. McLeod said the red areas would be demolished. A school board member then asked Dr. McLeod how much this would cost.

Bennettsville Intermediate plan proposed by Dr. McLeod.

“I have no earthly idea. Dr. Lane told me he wanted something free so this is what we came up with,” Dr. McLeod said.

Dupree said he wanted to see action taken at the meeting.

“Having the building be built and rooms added, that’s further down the line,” said the concerned parent. “In order for us to have a safe environment for the kids, we have to do something now and they didn’t make any decision on what we should do about the kids.”

School Board Member Michael Coachman agreed, he said the idea of demolishing and expanding is not a current solution to the problem and questioned the proposed plan because it would take time to implement.

“I thought we were here tonight to make a decision on putting our children in a better situation,” Coachman said. “I think what we’re looking at here is talking about the future and we need to focus on what we are going to do for our children now, to put them in a safer environment.”

School Board Chair Lucy Parsons then told the board that voting on a solution was not on Monday night’s agenda.

“I specifically made a motion at last board meeting, that we come to the table and come and make a decision to get our children out of that building,” said Coachman, who then made a motion to amend the agenda to speak about voting on a solution to move students out of Bennettsville Intermediate. Coachman later requested to change his motion to move the discussion and solution to the school board’s next meeting. He said he wants a solution by January 1.

Dupree said he came to the meeting as a concerned parent and was disappointed to see another night go by with no decision on moving the children out of the school.

“I want my kid to be in an environment where she can be healthy and where she can learn and where she can get a good education,” Dupree said. “It’s very important she gets a good education and be in a healthy environment.”

He said the conditions of the school have caused his third-grader to get sick.

“My daughter, she has asthma and she has problems breathing sometimes, most of the time, and around her eyes, they get dark sometimes and I have to take care of her,” he said. “Nothing was done about moving the kids or putting them into a safe environment and it’s important that we put the kids’ health first.”

Parsons said the board needs time to make a decision on whether or not to move the students.

“I still hold out hope that we can make an intelligent, responsible, well-thought-out decision based on facts, not emotion,” she said. “We are limited to eight percent of the assessed value of the county. I think we’ve used six percent so we don’t have the capacity to go out and build a new school and certainly you can’t do it immediately.”

Parsons said a decision on moving students will be made at the next school board meeting on Dec. 4.

“It might not be to do anything, that is a decision to just leave it just where it is and just go on through the year, and make a well-considered decision,” Parsons said.