Guest Editorial: School District breaks ground for teacher village

WINNSBORO – The Fairfield County School District Education Foundation is a non-profit corporation established in 2018 as a 501©(3) by the IRS. The Foundation was established to support the mission of the Fairfield County School District. The Foundation’s signature initiative, originally envisioned by Superintendent Dr. J.R. Green, is to creatively address the state’s growing crisis of recruiting and retaining outstanding teachers to rural districts, beginning with Fairfield County.

Rex

It has become increasingly apparent that the growing teacher shortages will require every school district to increase its competitive advantages. Over 70% of Fairfield County teachers do not presently live in our county; which means, among other things, that they do not spend their money in our county. Our Foundation hopes by providing affordable, attractive housing for interested teachers they will choose to not only live in Winnsboro but to shop and support local businesses; engage in the community outside of the school day; and participate in unparalleled opportunities for teachers to collaborate.

Nationally, statistics show we presently lose 50% of new teachers within their first 5 years of teaching. Also, enrollments in teacher preparation programs at our universities continue to decrease. This diminishing supply of “new blood” in the profession’s pipeline is increasingly alarming. Several of the top reasons given by teachers and teacher candidates for leaving, especially in rural areas, are: an inability to find adequate, affordable housing near their work; the expense and stress of long drives; and a need for additional support to deal with the growing demands within the teaching profession. The Foundation believes our teacher village model will simultaneously address many of these concerns.

The Fairfield County School District Board of Trustees has donated the land for the project. This 22 acres sits between the high school and the district office on the highway 321 Bypass. In 2000, the city of Winnsboro approved the rezoning of the property from commercial to residential. The Foundation received from a County legal settlement with Dominion Energy an earmarked 2.2 million dollar grant to complete Phase 1 of the project. This money will be used to complete the infrastructure for 30 homesites and the initial construction of 8-10 homes. The first group of teachers will hopefully be able to become residents during the summer of 2023. In the meantime, additional funding is being pursued, which will allow phase 2 to begin with the building of twenty additional homes and a clubhouse. The initial homes will all have 3 bedrooms/2 baths.

Civil Engineering of Columbia will be doing the infrastructure work and the construction will be provided by “Build On Your Land”, with assistance from Wade McGwinn Builders. Future phases of the project will include developing residential agreements with Universities to enable education majors to complete their senior internship training in Fairfield County Schools. This will hopefully increase our “pipeline” for the recruitment of beginning teachers.

The Foundation’s goal of providing attractive housing coupled with very competitive rental pricing has been made possible by the corporate generosity of Dominion Energy; the local district’s land contribution; and state support provided through the SC Rural Recruitment Initiative. This model, utilizing corporate, local, and state partnerships, will hopefully allow this pioneering effort to be emulated by school districts across our state and throughout our nation.

To learn more about our Foundation and how you can support our efforts, please visit our website @ fcsded.org

Comments

  1. Carolyn Clemens says

    I was distressed to see this confirmation of the Teacher Village posted. The construction of new housing specifically for teachers in a private section of the town feels separatist to me. If the true reason for our teacher dilemma is housing, why are we not reclaiming the derelict housing in the Mill Village and surrounding county. Teachers and first responders should indeed be a part of the community as a whole and live among their students and their families and those they serve, not in a private community separate and apart from the community.

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