The state of South Carolina says it is taking over a rural school district whose finances are in a "state of emergency."
The Columbia State reports that the South Carolina Education Department announced Wednesday it is taking control of Florence School District Four, based in Timmonsville, which has lost 32 percent of its students in the last decade "while still paying millions in administrative salaries and related costs."
"Now, with just over 600 students among its three schools, the district’s finances are in dire shape and require immediate action,” state schools Superintendent Molly Spearman says in a news release.
The emergency declaration removes the district's school board, and gives Spearman the authority to contract with nearby school districts and private companies for services.
"I am declaring a state of emergency in the district and will work quickly and diligently to find a sustainable solution to provide the students in Timmonsville with the opportunities they need and deserve for years to come.”
The district is the third school system that has been taken over by the state since last year.
In 2017, the state took over Allendale County's school district, citing it as having one of the state's worst academic records. Last month, the state took over Williamsburg County schools while the State Law Enforcement Division investigates district finances.
“Communities and leaders across South Carolina must plan sustainably for the future and always keep the interests of our students as the top priority," Spearman says. "It has become clear that the current model is not working here and taking away funds where they are needed most — the classroom."
Florence Four has had the state's highest financial risk ranking for the last three years, and the district has been unable to submit a timely audit because of the state of its financial records, Spearman says.
Florence Four has three schools — Brockington Elementary, Johnson Middle and Timmonsville High.