EASLEY – Just months after the Pickens County School District was preparing to spend millions of dollars renovating the old Gettys Middle School, the 50-year-old building could now be sold to a local charter school.
Monday night, the Pickens County School Board voted 3-2 (Judy Edwards and Herbert Cooper opposed) to declare the property surplus.
According to School Trustee Jim Shelton, this is the first step in the process to put the school on the market, which already has interested buyers.
“I don’t think this is property that needs to be liquidated. I think this is property that we need to keep,” Edwards, an Easley representative, said. “I feel like, eventually, we’re going to need this property in Easley. I cannot vote to label this property as surplus because I don’t feel like it is surplus.”
Others on the board disagreed.
“The school district has added 800,000 square feet in new space,” School Trustee Alex Saitta said. “As a result, the cost to run and repair our schools is rising. The district must do all it can with the assets we have to raise the funds to help pay for these costs. The district has surplus land and property, and I feel we need to be more aggressive in marketing those vacant buildings and properties.”
A few members of the public encouraged the board’s decision to declare the building “surplus.” Board members said Legacy Charter School is showing interest in the property.
“Gettys Middle School is too large. I don’t think you’ll hear any arguments about that,” said Phillip Bowers who told the board he was in favor of selling Gettys to Legacy Charter School. “Student performance in middle school is a challenge anyway, and I’m afraid if we proceed on with that many students in one school, we’ll see performance slip.”
Edwards maintained the position of needing to keep the property for future use.
“This is probably a building that needs to be demolish, but we need to keep the property,” Edwards said. “We’re going to need a second middle school. Now we’re admitting Gettys is too big, when before we weren’t. We’re going to need that property in Easley for another school in the future.”
Others said the property is becoming a burden.
“We’re already having problems with homeless people trying to get into the building,” Gillespie said. “When you turn the power off in a building, there’s going to be mold. The longer the building sits there, the harder it’s going to be to sell. Right now we could use the money.”
In late September, another charter school was given approval to soon open its doors in Easley. That school will target middle schoolers.
“With the Intense Charter School opening its doors next year in Easley (grades 5 to 8) and another charter school coming to Easley, enrollment at Gettys is not going to rise, but fall, so the one middle school is all that is needed,” Saitta said.
Saitta said the district’s biggest need is to get something for the building while it still can.
“We have to try to avoid these win-lose situations with charter schools,” Saitta said. “One of the reasons I want to sell this property is because they are coming anyway. They will just find another building and we’re going to lose that revenue. Let’s try to get some revenue from selling the building, rather than have it sitting there falling down on top of us getting no revenue.”