The decision won’t be easy, as the Pelzer community has moved quickly to sign a petition to keep the school open.
One resident said the school played a major role in his decision to move to Pelzer, and one woman fought back tears as she described how “devastating” it would be if the school closed.
The small, historic school has right under 150 students, and because of its small size it is much more expensive to run than the other schools in the district, officials told an audience comprised mostly of Pelzer residents during Tuesday’s budget session.
According to district figures, the average cost per student at Pelzer Elementary School is $9,700, about 30 percent more than the average cost per student district-wide, which is $6,751.
If Anderson One closed Pelzer Elementary, it could save more than $700,000, by slashing administrative, personnel, food services and operations expenses and by transferring Title I funds.
The Title I funds, which are given to schools that have a high percentage of low-income students, will follow the students, according to Associate Superintendent David Havird. Many of the students would move to West Pelzer Elementary, which would receive Title One funds, officials said.
“The Title I money would be assigned to the school that received Pelzer Elementary students,” Havird said.
About 85 of the students live in Pelzer, about 20 come from West Pelzer and the rest are closer to Cedar Grove Elementary and Palmetto Elementary schools.
Anderson One Chairman Fred Alexander said that both West Pelzer Elementary and Cedar Grove Elementary schools are within 1.5 miles from Pelzer Elementary, so they would still be “neighborhood schools.”
Fowler said he hopes the school would be used as a community building and retain its historical significance and that the “building would continue to be a vital part of the community, and not be like the mills, which got torn down.”
“I go to church there. I know how y’all feel about your schools,” Fowler said, addressing the audience.
Anderson One Trustee Nancy Upton said other departments, such as the career and technology center, could use the building.
After the residents handed the board the petition, several of them talked about how the school’s closing would affect the community.
Pelzer resident Stephen Boudreau said he moved from South Carolina to Pelzer from Florida, and one of the main reasons he chose Pelzer was because of the school.
“The school is part of the identity of that town,” Boudreau said, adding that it would be “heartbreaking” if Pelzer Elementary closed.
“The question I have is that I’m afraid we’re making a permanent decision with what I hope will be a short-term problem,” said Pelzer resident Heather Holcombe.
“I just want to make sure we look at every avenue before we make such a personal decision, because it’s very personal to me,” she said.
Holcombe asked the board if there’s anything the parents could do to help the district, and keep it from closing the school.
“I just want you to understand how devastating it would be to our community if you closed that school,” Holcombe said, fighting back tears.
Anderson One Trustee Joe Pack said he first started his 40-year tenure on the board to stop the district from closing Cedar Grove and Pelzer.
“That was my first intention — to keep those schools operating. And thanks be to God and a lot of other board members, over the years, we were able to keep those schools,” Pack said.
When the issue of closing Pelzer was brought up again recently, Pack said “It felt like someone had jerked my heart out.” But after looking at the cost to run Pelzer, and how much it would save the district to close the school, Pack said it’s something the board needs to consider.
“After considering this, and looking at the cost of this, I wish there were some other way. I really do,” he said.
The board’s next meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Feb. 24 at the district office, located at 801 N. Hamilton Street in Williamston.