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Longtime Calhoun County schools torn down to make way for green space

Although the town owns the Richland Avenue property, the new green park space will be funded by the Calhoun County penny sales tax.

CALHOUN COUNTY, S.C. — Currently, all that's left behind on a property on Richland Avenue are pieces of what once were three schools in St. Matthews - the primary, grammar, and high schools.

According to Calhoun County Museum Director Debbie Roland, they were opened as all-white schools and then became fully integrated in 1970. The students were primarily coming from John Ford High School.

“A lot of people like to see all this stuff gone and some people are kind of sad because of the stories," said Roland.

According to County Administrator John McLauchlin, the buildings are being demolished because they are "old, unsafe, dilapidated" and an "eyesore."

Now, Roland says many of the buildings that housed the former separate-but-equal schools have become recreational facilities. This includes John Ford High School and St. John's.

“To understand where we are, we have to understand how we got there," said Roland.

Roland said Calhoun County's desegregation order was lifted in 2014 after being in place for 48 years. U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs issued a unitary ruling for the district meaning it operates with a single school district for the entire student body.

County leaders said they have plans to turn the Richland Avenue property into a green park space. Although the town owns the property, it will be funded by the Calhoun County penny sales tax.

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