Politicians, including Obama, had been highlighting the dilapidated Dillon County school for more than a year by the time of Obama’s February 2009 speech. He and several other presidential candidates visited the school during the run-up to the 2008 election. And Obama first brought national media attention to the students’ plight in August 2007, when he winced as a high-pitched train whistle interrupted lessons during his visit.
All but $4 million of the federal money the county is receiving is a loan, which the area will pay back using revenue from a 1-cent sales tax levied in 2007, Rogers said. Some of the money will be used to refurbish existing facilities and build a new early childhood development center. But about $25 million will go toward building a new J.V. Martin Junior High School.
The school is in a rural swath along Interstate 95 in the state’s northeastern corner known as the Corridor of Shame, after a 2005 documentary about conditions in schools there. The school itself is a hodgepodge of buildings; the original part, a former church, dates to 1896, and the latest section was added in 1955. The auditorium, built in 1917, was condemned in 2008 by the state fire marshal.