Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Dorchester District Two officials have been looking forward to opening three brand-new elementary schools for the 2015-2016 school year.
Now officials are simply hoping to start construction on one of those elementary schools sometime soon.
Elementary School 1, named Eugene Sires Elementary, is missing a land disturbance permit that is preventing the start of construction.
Superintendent Joe Pye is worried the school will not open on time. “I’m most concerned,” Pye said. “I’ll be very blunt – I don’t see where it could possibly open on time.”
Bob Folkman, capital improvements facilitator for the district, approached DD2 board members during their meeting Aug. 11 to deliver the construction update. Folkman said contractors are still waiting on answers from OCRM, a coastal division of DHEC responsible for land disturbance permits.
Originally, Folkman said, the final land disturbance permit was supposed to come in at the end of July or beginning of August.
“Now they’re telling us they hope to have their comments and permit by the end of this month,” Folkman said. “We hurry up and wait. It’s just out of our control.”
Construction has already begun on Elementary Schools 2 and 3, also known as Sand Hill and Alston Bailey elementary schools, respectively. Folkman said there are no permit issues with those two schools.
Chairwoman Gail Hughes asked Folkman if one of the board members tries reaching out to OCRM, if that would help speed things up.
“I’m just really concerned; we don’t want to ruffle feathers, we want to try and get results,” Hughes said. “We just have to be careful of what we say to these people because we don’t want to take one step forward, four steps backward.”
Folkman said a meeting is something they can try.
“We appreciate any help,” he said.
After the board meeting, Folkman said the permit process should have started in May 2013 – about three months earlier than it actually did.
“This is my first experience with this,” Folkman said. “I’m frustrated.”
All three new elementary schools are supposed to open in August 2015 — in time for the 2015-2016 school year.
“I’m still optimistic that it will open in 2015,” Folkman said, “but we just got to do what we can to get through this permit process.
“Once we get that permit we can start construction,” he added.
Pye, however, is not quite as optimistic.
“I think we may be off a few months,” he said. “If it’s only a month or two off that’s one thing, but if it’s seven months off, then that means another whole year delayed. If we don’t get it out of the ground soon, it’s adding up. That’s my issue.”
In particular, Pye is worried about over-crowding within the district’s older elementary schools – something these new schools are supposed to relieve.
“Some of these schools are having a hard time handling it, and that’s my concern,” Pye said.
Pye is hopeful that in a month the district will have good news about that land disturbance permit. “I think by this time next month we should have every one of them out of the ground,” he said.