Whittemore Elementary School

Whittemore Racepath Historical Society, Inc. will meet with Conway City Council and coty staff about the future of the historic Whittemore Elementary School on U.S. 378

The president of the Whittemore Racepath Historical Society, Inc. says her group was surprised in July when they learned that the City of Conway planned to raze the old Whittemore Elementary School.

But now, Cheryl Adamson says they’re excited to present their ideas to members of the Conway City Council and staff about what they believe can happen at the U.S. 378 site.

They plan to do that Monday at a 6 p.m. meeting at the Conway City Hall.

“We’re excited,” Adamson said, “because we want to present what our vision is. We want it to be fresh when we get there on next week, but we really are still confident that this is a great opportunity for the community to do innovative things that have been done in other communities,” she said.

She said a lot of imagination has gone into what can be done to “repurpose our historical buildings.”

Not only will they look back at the past and honor that, but they can have a facility that puts their children in a position to take advantage of all of the new technology, green energy opportunities, plus some tried and true traditional things that have not been emphasized in that community, especially for children who do not have economic means.

She also uses the word partnership, saying the city won’t be expected to come up with all of the money needed to accomplish their ideas.

When council voted to raze the building, due to its mildew, asbestos and rot, they used the figure of $14 million to save it.

Adamson questions that figure saying when they asked about the details of the figure they learned that they were approximations.

“There were no real costs outlined,” she said.

She’s optimistic, saying they have been collaborating with other community groups, who have shown their support in various ways.

“There’s money in the world to pay for whatever people want, so it has to be a priority, so there are funds for efforts like this,” she said.

She points to the possibility of a public/private partnership.

“We’re not putting it all on the city,” she said.

She says they don’t have any money yet, but they have ideas about possible sources.

“You know we have the intellectual ability to do what other cities have done. Is everybody from across the country smarter than we are that we can’t come up with a viable plan that will stimulate possibilities and excitement,” she asked.

She hopes there will be opportunities for the building’s renovations and/or for additional construction.

She wants to honor the past “and take our children into a productive and creative future.”

She says the way this project has progressed has convinced her that the Lord is in their plans.

At least two council members queried Monday night said they plan to attend next Monday’s meeting, but they don’t have any particular ideas about what should be done with the old school or its site.

Councilman Larry White has said in the past that he doesn’t support the city spending $14 million to save the building.

But Monday, he said, he wants to hear and discuss the issue, learning what the supporters’ needs and concerns are hoping to come up with a “happy medium.”

Councilman Justin Jordan, a former student at the school, said the city needs to have some real conversation with the community.

He is hopeful that Monday will bring compromise on both sides.

Jordan says people have strong memories of their school days there, but he thinks that the memories and what the school stood for, and still stands for, are more important than the structure itself.

Adamson says they’re excited and feel good about the city giving them a meeting that is going to focus solely on the old Whittemore school and a possible community center at that site.

She said her group hopes to lead the conversation, but she does encourage community members who support them to attend the meeting to show their support.

Also, she said, if they know of people, businesses or other groups that might be interested in helping, they need to speak with them about having an educational institution in the “heart of the Black community”.

“We need a place to point to that says education is important,” she said.

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I'm the editor of the Horry Independent, a weekly newspaper in Conway, South Carolina. I cover city hall and courts, among many other subjects. Know of a good story? Call me at 843-488-7241.

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