Thursday, August 29, 2013
Highway 61 and Summers Drive will be the site of a new Dorchester District Two combo school complex where Elementary School #2 and Rollings Middle School will share a campus.
Elementary School #1 will be sited on the Pine Trace property near the Coastal Resource Center.
The site for Elementary School #3 is still under negotiation and won’t be released for a few weeks, said DD2 Board of Trustees Chair Gail Hughes at a press conference Wednesday.
No longer under consideration is The Ponds site because of seismic and wetland issues, Hughes said.
Board of Trustee Members Sam Clark, Charlie Stoudenmire, Hughes, Superintendent Joe Pye, Capital Improvements Manager Belinda Cagle, Capital Improvements Facilitator Robert Folkman and Director of Business Services Allyson Duke were all on hand Wednesday to answer questions and explain the district’s plans for the $179 million building project approved by voters last November.
In siting a school at the new East Edisto planned community, and using the combination school prototype, DD2 will save more than $3 million in design and construction costs as well as operating costs. Although completely separate, the elementary school and the middle school will share a cafeteria, parking and other services, saving the district money.
Further, MeadWestvaco donated the land on which the campus will be built, with the understanding that the district could use as much land as needed.
In addition, MeadWestvaco has also donated $2.5 million to the district to build a larger auditorium than originally planned that can be used by the community as well as the district. A thousand-seat auditorium is now planned.
With an eye to the future, MeadWestvaco has talked about plans to build more community schools within its development as it grows that would be paid for by MeadWestvaco, but run by the district. The development has plans to build 6,500 new homes, noted Stoudenmire.
The district purchased the Pine Trace land two years ago from the county for about $500,000. The district is currently hoping to purchase more land from the state Coastal Resource Center to combine with the Pine Traces allowing for a decent size campus that could include playing fields, etc.
The Pine Trace elementary school will copy the design of the Joseph Pye Elementary thereby saving the district the expense of a new design.
The combo school will copy the prototype Eagle Nest Elementary/River Oaks Middle School design albeit with a much larger auditorium.
The district, says Hughes, has struggled with finding land in a timely manner. The county, she says, seems to be running out of large tracts of land where schools are needed.
Once the site for Elementary School #3 is finalized and the four new schools built, the district will have realized 3,000 new seats. The schools should open in 2015.
However, at the current rate of growth, the district could well be facing the same issues in 2015, after gaining 3,000 seats, as it does now.
For one thing, many of those seats are already earmarked for district children currently learning in mobile “cottage” classrooms in the Knightsville, Newington and Flowertown Elementary Schools.
“The Knightsville Elementary School was the project of the WPA during the Roosevelt administration and was built for 600 kids. It now houses 1,400, the board said.
Pye told those in attendance that if the district went to a community school model (400 to 500 children per school), as some community members have suggested, the district would, right now, have to build 20 new schools – a cost the voters can’t afford,
Further, if they plan 10 years in advance and build to anticipate growth, it would cost upwards of $250 million.
The district is planning a series of community meetings to bring interested voters up to date on progress, let them know why the sites were chosen and get input from the community at large. These meetings will begin within the next few weeks they said.
“We want the community to have ownership of these schools,” said Hughes, “both the new schools and the renovated ones. We want to hear what it [the community] thinks will work and what won’t.”
“We want to thank all the people who did all the hard work to bring the referendum to a winning vote and all the voters who understood the need and voted for it,” Hughes continued.
We are being cautious and responsible stewards of your money, she concluded.