MCCLELLANVILLE — The National Action Network is organizing a chapter here to expedite a request to the U.S. Justice Department to investigate whether the community is getting fair and balanced treatment from the Charleston County School District, a civil rights leader said Monday.
Lincoln Middle-High School, which serves the area, has too few computers, sub-par heating and cooling, a mold problem and dilapidated football facilities, said James Johnson of North Charleston who is state president for the network.
In addition, the school buses are old and subject to breakdowns that disrupt the learning day because of late pupils, he said.
“Why is there no new school? Why are the kids in these conditions for so many years?” he said in a phone interview.
School district spokesman Daniel Head said that the safety of children is the district’s first concern.
“According to our records, there have been no recent reports at Lincoln Middle-High relating to the issues that have been suggested. Referencing something that has been taken care of months or years in the past is a misguided attempt to draw the public’s attention to things that are not actually a concern,” Head said in a statement.
No decision has been made regarding a new or different facility for Lincoln, Head said.
The current school, which serves middle school as well as high school students, currently has a total enrollment of around 160 students in grades 6-12, of which about 100 students are in high school. And while some parents have said a new school might entice more students to attend the community school, only 247 students in grades 6-12 live in Lincoln’s attendance zone, compared to the nearly 4,300 students in grades 9-12 zoned to go to Wando High School in Mount Pleasant.
The Charleston County School District has a guiding principle that says it will not build a new school for less than 500 students. According to the district’s latest estimates, a new 76,000-square-foot high school would cost around $35 million.
Nearly a year ago, a divided Charleston County School Board made a last minute change to add a new high school in McClellanville to the list of school construction projects tied to a voter-approved November referendum to extend a 1 percent sales tax. Despite the inclusion of a new Lincoln High on the list for funding, the school is not a priority because it ranks at the bottom of eligible capital improvements, Johnson said.
“If the money is not used up, then they will get to Lincoln. There’s a good chance they will get nothing,” he said.
Sam Campbell, president of the Concerned Citizens of District One Unincorporated Areas, and Thomas Colleton, chairman of the District One Constituent School Board, spoke to the gathering of about 40 people at Lincoln.
“This is a new day. Enough is enough. We are going to make a change. We’re on the tail end of Charleston County. They don’t care about us,” Campbell said.
It makes more sense to build a new high school closer to Awendaw than spend to fix problems at the old school building, Colleton said.
Lincoln should have been closed in 1989 because of flood damage from Hurricane Hugo, Johnson said.
Colleton and Campbell described their concerns in a letter that Campbell released Monday on behalf of Concerned Citizens of District One.
“For some time now, we have been making trips to Charleston County School Board. We have pleaded our case and voiced our concerns for the children in District One. This organization has come to the conclusion that the county board does not listen to us nor take our concerns seriously,” the letter states.
At the news conference Monday, local leaders also talked about plans to form the local National Action Network chapter. At least 25 people who pay annual dues of $25 are needed to create a local chapter, officials said.