Colleton leaders: no money to improve outdated elementary school

By Stacy WALTERBORO, S.C. (WCIV) -- A flag has flown over Bell's Elementary in Ruffin since the bell started ringing in 1954. But, outdated equipment and a breezeway taking students between buildings have become big problems for the school."Anybody can walk from the back side, come out the woods and grab any kid they want," said parent Vernon Davis, whose two children both attend Bells.The school serves students through sixth grade. At 60 years old, its one of the oldest in Colleton County. The county has several other brand new schools, funded by a school bond. "These children first through sixth grades are exposed to this weather. There's predators and snakes," said Rev. Jack Lewis Jr., president of the Colleton County NAACP. The Colleton County School Board agreed there were issues. Member William Bowman said the building needed to be replaced. "We don't have $11.5 million in any fund anywhere that we could use to build a school," Bowman said. Lewis said he thought the county slighted Bells because its student body is made up of mostly African American, Hispanic and low-income students. "They find money for everything except building the school out there for Bells Elementary. Why?" he said. The school board said is is all about money; it would need a bond referendum or a bond renewal in the 2015 election. But that wasn't good enough for one parent with children in the first and second grades. {}"I don't mind paying extra percentage to get my child safe. My money is not an object here. I want my children to be safe. I just want the word, 'We're going to rebuild Bells.' That's what I want to hear," Davis said. He would pay higher taxes to give his kids something better, he said.The School Board planned to revisit the issue next week, when it can be briefed by its financial adviser.