As the first year of Dorchester District 2’s $179 million building campaign comes to a close, so does a lot of the behind-the-scenes work.
In about six months, the district expects to break ground on three 1,000-student elementary schools, followed a few months later by an arts-based middle school. The district is planning to spend about $98 million from its $179 million general obligation bond campaign on the schools, which will help relieve overcrowding in the rapidly growing district.
“It has been challenging to find available acreage that would be appropriate for new schools in our district,” said board chairman Gail Hughes. “A number of sites that were under consideration early on in the process had to be eliminated due to lack of infrastructure as well as seismic and wetland issues.”
Last week, the district announced that the final school, dubbed Elementary School #3, will be built adjacent to Alston Middle School. Elementary #1 will be located on land the district bought two years ago at Pine Trace, and in August the district announced that Elementary #2 and the middle school will be on donated land that is part of the East Edisto tract.
“I guess everybody thinks that we should be able to rock and roll once we pick out a site,” said district capital improvement facilitator Bob Folkman. “There’s a whole lot of due diligence that has to be done.”
Traffic patterns, surveys, soil studies, and more precede putting shovel to dirt, he said.
The district expects to start considering attendance line changes and names for the schools in a couple months, spokeswoman Pat Raynor said. Meetings will be held to get public input.
The three elementary schools are projected to open in August 2015, and the new middle school will open in 2016.
Elementary School #1:
Where: Pine Trace property off Miles-Jamison Road
The district purchased the property two years ago for about $500,000.
The school will be built using the design of another school in the district, Joseph R. Pye Elementary.
It will likely be the first school under construction, Folkman said.
Elementary School #2 and the middle school of the arts:
Location: Summers Corner portion of the East Edisto tract, S.C. Highway 61 and Summers Drive
Despite early plans to build an elementary school near the YMCA facility in The Ponds, the district ultimately chose to locate the school on donated land at the Summers Corner on the East Edisto tract, where land was also donated for an arts-based middle school.
“There was nothing wrong with The Ponds site, “ Folkman said. But as the district studied the site, additional costs came to light. “It caused us to say, ‘We can afford to do it, but is this the best place?’”
Locating the school at Summers Corner allowed the district to avoid some costs with site development and to reuse the design of the Eagle Nest-River Oaks campus, saving a total of about $3 million.
Additionally, East Edisto developers MeadWestvaco donated $2.5 million to upgrade the middle school auditorium so that it can be used by the community.
Elementary School #3:
Location: U.S. Highway 78 by Alston Middle School
The district estimates it is saving about $1 million by building an elementary school next to Alston Middle School on land it has owned since Alston was built in the 1950s. The two schools will share a bus loop and some other facilities.
Designed after Pickens County’s Dacusville Elementary, the school will be two stories to give is a smaller footprint.
Ball fields used by the community will have to be eliminated for the building, so the district is hoping to buy land nearby to replace them.
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.