Aiken school officials listening to community feedback about penny sales tax renewal

May 20—The Aiken County Public School District held on May 16 its second of four public input meetings centered around the potential renewal of a 1-cent sales tax that went into effect in 2015, and several people spoke out for the need for improvements for schools in the New Ellenton/Jackson area.

At Thursday's meeting at Silver Bluff High School, the school district's Chief of Operations Officer Corey Murphy gave attendees a list of schools that are possible considerations for renovations and upgrades.

These include North Augusta Middle School, Paul Knox Middle School, Gloverville Elementary School, Greendale Elementary School, Jackson STEM Magnet Middle School, Jefferson Elementary School, Kennedy Middle School, Langley-Bath-Clearwater Middle School, Midland Valley High School, South Aiken High School and Silver Bluff High School.

Community members shared their thoughts and concerns, including the need for improvements to their schools, from updated gyms and classrooms to better quality of education and improved teacher turnover rates.

Silver Bluff junior Lauren Reeder noted the refurbishments at Aiken High School.

"I know they needed it... but I would like to see some of those opportunities brought to rural areas like Silver Bluff," Reeder said. "I think it's important for students to be proud where they go to school."

Shauna Barefield, the girls track and field coach at Silver Bluff High School, talked about the need for improved athletic facilities as the school's students are often having to search for places to practice or have to resort to using other school's facilities.

"My kids are on their way to the state championship and we can't even practice in our own home school," she said.

Richie Porter, chairman of the Silver Bluff School Improvement Council, said the campus looks the same as it did when her son graduated in 1989.

"In order to provide our children a top-notch education, we need good teachers," Porter said. "And we need good facilities to be able to keep those teachers here."

New Ellenton Town Council member and substitute teacher Geneva Jackson talked about the need for updates at Greendale Elementary School, Jackson STEM Magnet Middle School and Silver Bluff High School.

"Please ensure that these schools get what they need, because it affects everybody," she said. "It doesn't only affect the students, it affects me as a substitute teacher going to those schools, it affects the teachers and the staff there."

Murphy noted Thursday that for community members who are not able to give their input at meetings, a survey will be available online at the Aiken County Public School District website starting Friday, May 24.

District projects funded by the first round of the 1-cent sales tax include refurbishments and updates to Leavelle McCampbell Middle School, Aiken High School, North Augusta High School, Ridge Spring-Monetta Middle School and a new Career and Technology Center which is soon to be constructed on Aiken Technical College's campus.

The first public input meeting on May 13 was held at North Augusta Middle School.

The remaining meetings will be held on May 21 at Langley-Bath-Clearwater Middle School and then on May 23 at South Aiken High School. These meetings will each begin at 6 p.m. For more information, visit acpsd.net.