The cost to reopen Mayewood Middle School for Sumter School District will be in the range of $1 million to $1.2 million next school year and then about $360,000 to $471,000 in recurring annual expenditures every year after that.
Cost calculations …
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First-year costs in 2019-20: $1 million to $1.2 million
Reoccurring annual costs: $360,000 to $471,000
Source: Sumter School District administration
Cost calculations were presented by four members of district administration and Interim Superintendent Debbie Hamm to the school board Monday night at its regular monthly meeting at the end of which the trustees voted 6-3 to reopen the East Brewington Road school in the rural eastern portion of the county.
The presentation and discussions - which a few times appeared more like debates - covered costs related to construction, technology, academic programming, personnel, food service, operations and other expenditures associated with the school's reopening.
The nine-member board, made up of five different members before a turnover after the November midterm election, voted in April 2018 to close Mayewood and F.J. DeLaine Elementary School due to what members said was low enrollment and a way to save money. Mayewood was consolidated into R.E. Davis Elementary School 1.3 miles away, which was renamed to R.E. Davis College Preparatory Academy, and nationally recognized academic programs were implemented in a K-8 magnet school model.
Construction costs, presented by Chief Operations Officer Dana Fall, total an estimated $540,672 for renovations and maintenance to Mayewood. Some maintenance costs aren't necessities for next year, such as $75,000 to repaint the school, but Fall did say the district tries to maintain a similar, fresh appearance for all schools.
Technology costs to up-fit Mayewood will be $182,500 to include new Promethean active panels and other items, according to Arpad Jonas, the district's director of information technology. He said if the Mayewood students stayed at R.E. Davis in the K-8 school, technology costs there would be about one-third of that total.
As far as personnel costs, teacher salaries do not factor into the reopening because those middle-school instructors will simply move from R.E. Davis back to their former campus, according to John Koumus, the district's chief human resources officer. He did say it will cost $258,995 to hire and pay support staff, such as custodians and administrative assistants. The people in these positions moved during the summer for this school year to fill vacancies at other schools in the district, he said.
Total projected food services costs are $73,123, according to district staff, which mostly includes hiring cafeteria workers. Frank Baker, the district's former superintendent and now one of the two at-large board members who represent the entire county, challenged that estimate by saying he thinks those costs will not be as high because he thinks more workers from R.E. Davis can be transferred to Mayewood.
The district's chief financial officer, Jennifer Miller, wrapped up the district's presentation with what she described as telling statistics on the total costs of educating students in a low-enrollment school.
Last year, with 141 students at Mayewood Middle, per-pupil expenditures were $15,236 - almost $5,000 more than any other middle school in the district. Miller said the data are based on formulas from the state Department of Education. Board member the Rev. Daryl McGhaney contested whether those calculations were accurate but gave no reason for this thoughts.
HAMM: THERE ARE ISSUES, BUT PUSH FORWARD
Before the presentation, Hamm, the district's interim leader, said the saved money from not reopening Mayewood could be used for much-needed services - teacher recruitment, nurses, teacher raises and other resources - in the district, which is funded below the state average for South Carolina school districts.
Admitting there are still issues with the transition of Mayewood students into R.E. Davis, she still challenged the full board to make R.E. Davis work. Those transition issues include a need for a new sign for the front of the school and window blinds in some areas.
Hamm said other concerns she had heard about the K-8 school included there isn't a proper division between the middle school and elementary school spaces and that some think that is a safety issue.
WHAT WAS THE REASON?
As of press time Wednesday, The Sumter Item was still waiting to hear from some of the six trustees who voted in favor of reopening Mayewood on Monday night on their reasons for their "yes" vote.
McGhaney and Area 7's Barbara Jackson, in whose district Mayewood is located, said they think there is an immediate need to get the middle school students into a proper facility on the level with other middle schools in the district. McGhaney said he thinks, even with the reopening, the district will still be able to meet its state mandate to have roughly $12 million in its general fund balance by the end of next year. After being depleted to $106,449 as of June 30, 2016, the district's general fund balance ended at $8.6 million as of June 30, 2018.
That threshold was put into place according to a new state law. The district remains under a "fiscal caution" from the state education department after an official audit revealed $6.2 million in overspending in fiscal 2016, under the watch of board member Baker, who was superintendent at the time. Baker, at the time, originally brought up the idea of closing the two low-enrollment schools to save money.
Neither Baker, Sherril Ray nor Matthew "Mac" McLeod have responded to any inquiries from The Sumter Item since the vote.
OTHER MEETING ITEMS
- The board's first motion after returning to open session Monday was to rescind its original motion from Jan. 28 to reopen Mayewood. In what has been described as a "surprise motion" from that night, the full board voted 6-2 with one abstention to reopen Mayewood then. The next day, legal counsel for the state Press Association ruled the board's vote was illegal and "impermissible" because it was neither listed on the meeting agenda nor amended and added to the agenda before the vote.
- The board took no action when it returned to open session late Monday on its discussion of a personnel matter while in executive session behind closed doors. On Sunday afternoon, Canty added an item to the agenda in closed session that read "discussion of employment matters, appointment, compensation, promotion, demotion, discipline, and/or release of an employee."
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