Officials discuss closing Bamberg Co. school; parents worried about health

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News 12 at 6 o'clock; May 7, 2008

EHRHARDT, S.C. --- The end of the school year could mean the end of one Bamberg County school, sending kids to a different school. But, the problem parents have, the school the kids are going to has mold and mildew in it.

A group of about 30 people met with News 12's Gene Petriello because they want to keep their kids safe and their local elementary school open.

Bonnie Burgess and her friends are in a fight to save their children's elementary school.

"It is the heart and soul of our community and we feel it's better to keep our kids close to home," says Bonnie.

Late last month, the Board of Trustees from Bamberg School District One voted to close the doors at Ehrhardt Elementary School and move those students to Richard Carroll Elementary Camps A and B.

"We feel it was closed under a cloak of darkness. We didn't know about this. It was brought up in a meeting under a line of items of budget concerns," says angry parent Wes Ulmer.

"It was sudden, I suppose. Unless, you've been looking at signs pointing to that inevitability," says District Superintendent Phyllis Schwarting.

The district saying closing Ehrhardt is a financial decision. Bonnie's not happy about having to change her kids' path of education, especially with one of her kid's having allergies and asthma.

"There's mildew and mold, there's a health issue there (at the potential new school)," says Bonnie.

"We do have it. We try to stay on top of it as best we can," says the Superintendent.

News 12 wasn't allowed inside Ehrhardt, but a parent took pictures and sent them to us.

"This school (Ehrhardt) there's no health issues. There's no mold. There's no mildew. No sinking. If anything, why not send them to our school," asks Bonnie.

"It's a good physical shape school," says Wes.

"There are some problems up here (at the A and B school). There are also some problems at Ehrhardt. It does happen to probably be in better physical shape," says the Superintendent.

These parents are also telling News 12 the new bus rides their children would have to be on are no walk in the park.

"Have to be up at 5 in the morning to catch a bus at 6. Then, they don't come home until 5 in the afternoon," says Bonnie.

"We are possibly going to be able to cut off 10 to 15 minutes for some of our bus rides," says Schwarting.

While that's their anticipation right now, Schwarting says things could change, but not until the voters decide to, "step up to the plate with a referendum to build a new K-4 school. (Until then) we are going to have to make the best," says Schwarting.

She adds, they have found that there is no statistical difference between those with upper respiratory sickness at the A and B school compared to other schools in the district.

We did ask if it is a possibility the Ehrhardt School could be saved. But, the Superintendent tells News 12, she knows those who voted to close the school stand behind their decision. She adds, never say never, but the chance of the doors of Ehrhardt to be open for the next school year seems to be unlikely.

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