LAKE WYLIE — A longtime Lake Wylie resident called the Clover School District’s proposed bond referendum “bogus.”
During the Oct. 25 Clover-Lake Wylie Republican Women’s Club meeting at River Hills Country Club, resident Don Long and school superintendent Dr. Marc Sosne debated the proposed referendum.
If approved in March 2014, the referendum would cost taxpayers $65 million and offer new renovations and constructions to serve nearly 7,000 students in the district, Sosne said.
Preliminary plans include a replacement for Clover Middle School, a new Lake Wylie-based elementary school and a facelift to Memorial Stadium.
But self-professed community activist Long showed strong opposition to the plan, which would expand Clover High School to maximum capacity rather than building a new high school in the Lake Wylie area.
Clover High currently has about 1,900 students. In the referendum plan, Clover Middle School would be renovated to become a ninth-grade academy. This would then expand the high school’s capacity to about 3,400 students, allowing Clover to remain a community unified by a single high school, Sosne said.
“Ninth grade tends to have the most problems in the school district,” Sosne said. “Some get into trouble or become disenfranchised. Hopefully, this will help reduce the dropout rate and allows us to keep Clover district a one high school district for years to come.”
But Long said he’s concerned the district is “putting all its eggs in one basket” by not proposing funds to build a new high school in the Lake Wylie area. Citing “dozens of studies” on optimum high school size, Long argues high schools operate best if enrollment is between 800 to 1,800. He disagreed with Sosne, who said a large high school would lead to more educational diversity and a higher sense of community belonging.
Instead, Long said, academic performance, student focus and retention rates will decrease.
“We’re ignoring the issue that bigger is not better,” he said. “If your objective is to most effectively add more students in a big box, then we ought to put all seven schools in a big box for 12,000 students.”
Sosne said Long’s “so-called research” focused only on large, urban schools, which had drug and dropout problems – “all the types of things we don’t find in Clover, nor do we anticipate finding them.” Under Sosne’s plan, the Clover High building would house about 2,400 students, while the 1,000-student ninth-grade academy would exist on the same campus.
Although Long pointed out that the two entities would be sharing many of the same facilities and supplies, Sosne said the district has added enough personnel to match the demand. The superintendent said the district conducted a three-year investigation into the costs and consequences of building a second high school.
“This is not something determined just a month ago, but something we’ve been discussing for quite some time,” Sosne said.
Chuck Beck, a Lake Wylie resident since 1991 who led Clover High’s mentor program in the early ’90s, said he would gladly pay a higher price for a second high school, if it meant the quality of Clover district education stays the same as it is now. He said he attended a high school in Harrisburg, Pa., where there were two schools of equal size.
“Where Clover is right now is a good size for it to be,” he said. “I wouldn’t want it bigger.”
Having a single community point between Lake Wylie and Clover is an “unachievable objective,” Long said, saying the two areas are not one community. By holding off on building a second high school, he said, Clover is “kicking the can down the road for quick savings.”
“Lake Wylie should be preserved and not have to have it jammed in together with others,” he said. “We like this community, and they like their community. We should emphasize our positive differences. We need a Lake Wylie High School and not doing that is just trying to save a couple of bucks now.”