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Fowler probes upcoming referendum issues

"Please don't believe everything you read on social media."

Stick to the facts.

That was the advice given by Abbeville County School District Superintendent Dr. Julie Fowler to Abbeville Rotarians Thursday in a presentation she gave on the Abbeville County School District referendum, which had been set for April 28, but since has been postponed.

"I've seen a lot of numbers floating around," she told Rotarians.

She encouraged people to visit the Abbeville County School District website for further information.

In the upcoming referendum, voters will decide whether to fund the creation of a single, consolidated high school for the District, the conversion of Dixie High into a middle school and renovations to the current John C. Calhoun Elementary School.

These proposed changes did not spring forth overnight, but were the product of considerable study, she indicated.

For example, one of the proposed renovations would be to provide a secure vestibule for John C. Calhoun Elementary -- security which could mean the difference between life and death in the case of an "active shooter."

The studies were done by several entities, including the state, as well as a group called MECA and a firm called PPI.

The District has a number of schools. How did John C. Calhoun Elementary, Abbeville High School and Dixie High School come to be on the list?

It was not a random selection, indicated Fowler. The schools were chosen because they appeared to be the most in need of repair.

Fowler read off a number of grades given by PPI on various schools in the district.

Some of the worst marks went to Abbeville and Dixie High Schools in the areas such as certain kinds of safety.

Fowler noted that the school district could borrow the money in increments to make the proposed changes a reality, but taxes would still go up, and it would end up costing more than the referendum route.

Responding to a question from the audience following her presentation, Fowler noted that the state of South Carolina can step in and mandate certain changes be made in the affairs of local school districts, but only under certain circumstances, such as the case of underperforming schools.

School construction is not one of those cases, Fowler indicated.

The School District had been planning a number of community meetings. One was scheduled last night at Wright Middle School, and one at John C. Calhoun Elementary on March 26, but they have been postponed.

"We want voters to make informed decisions," Fowler said. "I encourage you to educate yourself on the facts."

Fowler called for civil discourse amid all the voicing of opinions.

"It's okay to disagree," she said. "The young people in this community are watching."

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