District could reallocate money to rebuild aged Aiken Co. school

News 12 First at Five / Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013

GRANITEVILLE, S.C. (WRDW) -- Leavelle McCampbell Middle School is a facility that's seen better days.

"And the area around the school is deteriorating very fast, and the community is almost a disaster area," said Joe Taylor, Graniteville native and president of the alumni association for Leavelle McCampbell School.

Taylor attended school there during its heyday. It was a high school then, but after Midland Valley High School opened its doors, the Graniteville school became a middle school.

Established in 1923, the three-story building is now plagued with dozens of problems.

"I went there. I graduated in 1965. My kids went to middle school there. It's about all the history we have left in Graniteville," Taylor said.

Deputy Superintendent David Caver says just since the year 2000, the district has had to repair air conditioning, plumbing, school floors, gym floors, asphalt outside and bleachers. He says workers have had to remove asbestos from the building. Caver says even simple tasks like painting are hard because the school is so old.

Now, the plan is to rebuild the school in just a couple years near the new Byrd Elementary off Bettis Academy Road. The county will get the property to build on for free, as they did the property for Byrd, from FineDeering.

While Taylor knows something is needed, he has concerns about what'll happen to the old current building that's recognized by the state for its historic value.

"I know it'll just sit there and deteriorate once the building's empty. The buildings will get knocked out, the dope-heads will go in it and steal the copper out and steal all the electrical and plumbing like they have the mills. Every mill's been completely stripped. It'd just be another eyesore," he said.

Caver says there is no plan for the current building right now. School board member Dwight Smith, who represents the area, also hasn't heard anything, but he doesn't think the school district will destroy this history. Well-known developer Weldon Wyatt told News 12 that he doesn't plan to purchase the land.

Caver says it doesn't make financial sense to keep pouring money into repairing the current school. Throughout the county, he says it's one of the schools they spend the most in maintenance on.

The school board will approve the plan Tuesday night. It's actually part of the Five-Year Facilities Plan that is also tackling major renovations at North Augusta and Aiken High Schools. The construction of a new Leavelle McCampbell Middle School was actually pushed up to begin in 2015. That means projects at Gloverville Elementary and New Ellenton Middle School will be pushed back.

According to district documents, the price tag of a new Leavelle McCampbell will be at least $22.4 million. Construction, according to the document, would begin during the 2015-2016 fiscal year. It would continue through the 2016-2017 year, too.

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