Will you vote for change with me?

Dear Community,

I know that this year has brought more challenges than we ever expected. We have seen great loss as we entered the first pandemic that most of us have ever experienced. Many in our community found their businesses shuttered and livelihoods lost. Parents were required to bear a greater load as to our children’s education. I cannot imagine anyone emerging unscathed.

There is one thing for which I can be personally thankful. Throughout all the uncertainty with our school closures, I became more aware of the activities of our school board. Many who know me, know that we are proud Irmo residents. I have had the pleasure to serve on the PTO board at Nursery Road Elementary Arts Magnet for the last three years where my son attends 1st grade. My daughter attends the Escolares program at Harbison West Elementary School. Wonderful teachers, incredible staff and understanding administrators are woven into the fabric of both these schools. Because of these individuals, these schools help comprise one of the best districts in our state. Thank you, truly, for all that you do for our students.

Unfortunately, as the MBKahn study showed, both of these schools so dear to our hearts are in desperate need of repairs to the tune of $28 million dollars. Last year, a friend of mine had her child’s class relocated for multiple days due to a horrible stench that flooded the classroom which has been happening for years. I’ve been told that it hasn’t been repaired but they tried to takes steps to mitigate it. At Harbison West (in a normal year) the students can’t use the playground equipment on super hot days. Why? No cover. The heat of the equipment would burn their skin. These are the realities of aging buildings.

Any parent that has walked the halls has witnessed the inequity that we have been handed in our cluster – in the Irmo cluster. Please also note that both of these schools are Title 1 schools. For the record, MBKahn also provided a quote on what a replacement option would be for new schools, which happens to be merely $4 million more than repairs would cost.

How has this happened? How could our board only allow $10 million/year for school maintenance? How can this board honestly claim they advocated equally for all of their constituents when they allowed very few of the $243M bond referendum funds to be spent in the Irmo Cluster? How did they decide to build another elementary school (to the tune of $32M) in an area that the recent Milone & MacBroom study showed such a school wasn’t needed? Yet they have no plans in the budget for the $56 million we need in repairs.

You may hear from the current board members that it is important where a board member lives to ensure our Irmo voices are heard; however, the three Irmo residents we had on the board not only didn’t help but compounded our problems. I, for one, will not be voting to give them a chance to fail us yet again. That is why I am supporting Catherine Huddle, Rebecca Hines and Matt Hogan. Let’s return transparency, fiscal responsibility, and equitable education for all to our district. Will you vote for change with me?

Deana Berley
District 5 Resident