There won’t be a referendum on Abbeville County schools in the foreseeable future, at least if the school board still has a say in the matter.
Abbeville County School District trustees unanimously voted at Tuesday’s meeting to repeal the resolution adopted on Feb. 11, cancel the referendum scheduled for April 28 and authorize Superintendent Julie Fowler “to take any and all actions necessary to cause the cancellation of the referendum.”
The Feb. 11 resolution was for the construction of a countywide high school, renovations to Dixie High School to become a middle school and renovations to John C. Calhoun Elementary. The referendum would have given Abbeville County residents the opportunity to vote on the resolution approved by the board.
The board cited the cancellation of the referendum, and repeal of the resolution, to the nation’s economic uncertainty and current health crisis stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Henry McMaster had already ordered that all elections through the end of April be postponed, including the referendum.
Francenia Heizer, a legal professional at Burr and Forman, gave the board two options in regards to how they could handle the referendum: wait and let McMaster assign a new date for the referendum or petition him and ask for a specific date.
Fowler said the district is not the only one that is facing referendums during this time, and how there is uncertainty in the economy. She recommended that the board consider petitioning McMaster to cancel the referendum until after the COVID-19 pandemic and they know what the local, state, national tax base looks like.
Heizer referred to Fowler’s recommendation as uncharted territory because there is no precedent for canceling referendums.
Board member Marvin Peoples made a request to the board in regards to the past meetings about the referendum that saw split votes and opinions between members.
“When the time is right, that we all work in good faith to do something for the students,” he said.
The open board seat Mark Peeler occupied will also be in the hands of McMaster, who will assign a date for the vote.
The board also unanimously approved the second reading of the 2020-21 school calendar, contracts for a roofing project at Westwood Elementary and LED lighting project at Westwood and Cherokee Trail Elementary.
Fowler received a letter from the South Carolina School Board Association recommending the board hire a court reporter to transcribe minutes. Board members Keith Dunn and David Brooks had concerns over minutes taken at a January workshop about consolidation and the construction of a countywide high school.
The entire board, including Dunn and Brooks, refuted the need for a court reporter and commended Administrative Assistant Rosilyn Mims, who currently transcribes meetings minutes.
Dunn instead wanted to change the board policy to handle adjustments to minutes better, offering a draft of a new policy to the board. The board plans to discuss the matter at a future meeting.