Orangeburg, SC (WLTX) -- If a bill is approved by lawmakers, Orangeburg County schools could be consolidated in the next couple years.
Dozens of residents spoke out against the proposal to Orangeburg County lawmakers Monday night at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College.
"If you consolidate this district, this county, where will my son fall? He is not a special needs kid, he isn't labeled as one. He is an autistic child," said Jason Dempsey.
Those opposed to the consolidation fear it will increase class size and the amount of time students spend on a bus, as well as closing down some of their schools.
"I know they say they aren't going to close the schools, but I don't want them to rearrange it. We are a small-knit community and I want it to stay that way," said Carlie Gainey.
Before the end of the legislative session, Representative Jerry Govan and other Orangeburg County Representatives introduced amendments to the Senate's bill. The amendments would change the group of people involved in the transition, to include a member of the local business community, a parent of a student in an Orangeburg County school and a teacher from the area.
One of the amendments would also require three public hearings before an elementary or middle school can be closed.
There were a handful of supporters that spoke Monday night. They said consolidation is the answer to the schools' funding difficulties and believe it is in the best interest of the students.
"I am looking into the future and I recognize that the future of this county, the future of this state suggest that all of our kids need opportunity," said Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter.
The bill to consolidate the districts passed a second reading in the House and lawmakers are expected to take up the issue again in the near future.
If it passes, it will take effect July 1, 2019.