New Charleston County school buildings would open in seven waves, starting in summer 2013 and finishing three years later, according to a proposal from top district leaders.
The six-year, 1 percent sales tax increase voters approved in November will cover at least $450 million in school construction projects. The school board has final say on the order in which the buildings will be completed, and the district released its proposal this week for consideration.
"This seemed to be by far the best and most straightforward of the different scenarios," said Bill Lewis, chief operating officer for the school district. "It makes things achievable and executable."
Board Chairman Chris Fraser said the district's line-up looked reasonable, and he'd be willing to support it. The board committed to finishing the buildings for schools with seismic problems first, and that will happen, he said.
"There's lots of things you'd like to deliver sooner, but it's a function of timing," he said. "I think it's in good shape."
The district can't launch all of the projects at the same time for a number of reasons, such as cash flow, the local construction market's capacity, staffing and the effect on instruction, Lewis said.
And there are only two times each year that schools can be successfully opened -- in the summer and during winter break, Lewis said. Opening then minimizes the impact on students and enables the district's limited staff to install the necessary furniture, equipment and information technology, he said.
Officials tried to make the workload of each wave equal in terms of number of projects and funding.
One of the exceptions to that order was delaying safety-related
projects -- the seismic evaluations of six school buildings -- until 2016. Lewis said that was a strategic decision and follows the direction of the previous school board.
The district doesn't know what seismic improvements those buildings need or how much that would cost, and they didn't have that information when creating the project list for the November referendum. Instead of asking voters to approve an undetermined amount of money for that construction work, it set aside money for the evaluations so the district could prepare to do the repairs in the future.
That prompted one of new board member Mary Ann Taylor's biggest questions about the proposed execution timeline. The district has been talking about its seismic needs, and she wondered why those projects weren't scheduled earlier.
Fraser said he didn't think the evaluations needed to be moved up. The district has other schools to build, and it doesn't have the money needed to deal with potential problems that could be cited in engineering reports, he said.
Another exception the district made in ordering projects was moving forward the completion date for Jennie Moore Elementary, which was in the lowest priority category. It will be built on the same campus as Laing Middle, and when both are built, all of Mount Pleasant will be redistricted to help relieve overcrowding, especially for the Park West neighborhood.
The new elementary and middle schools should be constructed at the same time to alleviate congestion and because a two-school project would provide cost benefits to the district, Lewis said.
Jennie Moore Elementary is slated to be finished in summer 2014 while Laing Middle would open in January 2015.
"We just don't have the luxury of waiting," he said.
The school board has to approve an execution plan, and Lewis said he'd be glad to run different scenarios if board members have other suggestions.
The board likely will consider this timeline at its next meeting, Jan. 24.
The following is a proposed schedule of the projects and completion dates for buildings that will be covered by the 1 percent sales tax increase. Three exceptions include: renovations to the former Rivers Middle campus and the rebuilding of Sullivan's Island Elementary, which will be completed with money from the previous building program; and the new Montessori Community School of Charleston, which will be paid for with a combination of federal stimulus money and sales tax revenue. Those projects are listed here because they will be done during the same time period as the others. Unless otherwise noted, the listed schools will receive new buildings. The school board must approve an execution timeline.
Completion date: January 2013
Montessori Community School of Charleston $15.5 million
Completion date: Summer 2013
Former Rivers Middle School (renovation) $25 million
Sullivan's Island Elementary $26.4 million
Memminger Elementary $22 million
James Simons Elementary $27.4 million
Buist Academy $35.7 million
Charleston Progressive Academy $18.6 million
Total for first wave: $170.6 million*
Completion date: January 2014
Wando Career Technology Academy (addition) $49.7 million
Harbor View Elementary $26.5 million
Total for second wave: $76.2 million
Completion date: Summer 2014
St. Andrew's School of Math and Science $33.1 million
Jennie Moore Elementary $34.4 million
Chicora Elementary $28 million
Total for third wave: $95.5 million
Completion date: January 2015
Laing Middle $39.1 million
Lowcountry Tech at the Burke High campus (renovation) $5 million
James Island Charter High (fine arts facility, traffic and athletic field improvements) $25 million
Emergency Operation Center (information technology relocation) $2.5 million
Total for fourth wave: $71.6 million
Completion date: Summer 2015
North Charleston Creative Arts Elementary $27.1 million Murray-LaSaine Elementary (whole school renovation) $10 million
Angel Oak Elementary (whole school renovation) $9.3 million
Springfield Elementary $33.1 million
Total for fifth wave: $79.5 million
Completion date: January 2016
Seismic evaluations for Mary Ford Elementary, Northwoods Middle, C.E. Williams Middle, St. Andrews Middle and West Ashley Middle $1.6 million
Seismic evaluation and advanced design of Garrett Academy $1.6 million
Dunston Elementary (advanced design plans) $975,000
Total for sixth wave: $4.2 million
Completion date: Summer 2016
Carolina Park Elementary (land purchase) $3.5 million
Athletic facilities (advanced design) and weight room improvement $4 million
Carolina Bay (land purchase) $3.5 million
Pinehurst Elementary $15.3 million
Stono Park Elementary $26.6 million
Azalea bus lot (renovation) $7.5 million
District 3 bus lot (renovation) $3.3 million
Ingleside campus (land purchase) $3.5 million
Total for seventh wave: $67.2 million
Grand total: $564.8 million
*First wave is larger than the others because it includes two years of sales tax revenue collections.
Source: Charleston County School District
Reach Diette Courrégé at 937-5546.