Dorchester 2 laying groundwork for school construction, renovation projects
Voters in Dorchester District 2 approved $179 million for three new elementary schools, a new middle school of the arts and renovations to 10 other schools. They also approved a $7.5 million aquatic center, which will be operated by the Summerville Family YMCA.
The bonds will raise taxes on a $150,000 house by about $102 annually.
Like Berkeley County, Dorchester County officials have been laying a lot of the groundwork necessary before the construction begins.
The district hired Bob Folkman, former building program administrator for Pickens County School District, to serve as capital improvement facilitator for the district, and Belinda Cagle as construction project manager. They are overseeing the management of the building program.
The district also has formed an oversight committee of community members to monitor the spending.
Unlike Berkeley, which wants to open one new school per year, Dorchester 2 plans to open three new elementary schools in August 2015 and the middle school in August 2016.
The district has land for schools at The Ponds and Pine Trace but has not secured locations for the third elementary school or the middle school, said district Chief Financial Officer Allyson Duke.
Work also is progressing on the renovations.
“There’s a chance we may see some activity next spring,” Folkman said. “It depends, based on the input we get from the architects as to what their workload is and how many projects they can handle at one time.”
Some of the projects are dependent on others. For instance, the current Rollings School of the Arts will be renovated to become the new district office and the current district office will become part of Summerville High School.
Plans are to disrupt school as little as possible.
Officials also have started looking at attendance lines but have not made any proposals yet. They will have community meetings when the last school site is decided.
“Our practice in this district is we convene a meeting with anyone and everyone who lives here,” said spokeswoman Pat Raynor. “So I think the last time we had 12 input meetings, and that was for two projects. This is going to be very interesting because (Superintendent Joe Pye) has indicated that there could be, feasibly, some change at every elementary school.”
District officials also will seek public input when naming the new schools, Raynor said.
The pool, which will be built by the district but operated by the YMCA, is not a high priority project, officials said. The location has yet to be determined.
“That’s sort of secondary to us,” Duke said. “We are ready for the schools to get going first.”