New schools in Mount Pleasant are at the top of the list of building projects the Charleston County School Board has begun finalizing for voters to consider this fall when deciding whether to extend a 1 percent sales tax.
During a workshop Tuesday, school board members agreed on a preliminary list of projects that includes roughly $404 million for 19 core projects. Another $40.8 million is budgeted for nine contingent projects if tax revenues exceed expectations.
School Board Chairwoman Cindy Bohn Coats said unlike the previous referendum where the project list was dominated by new schools and renovations to address structural problems, this time the projects were driven more by growth.
"The projects almost created themselves," Coats said after the meeting. "The growth is where the growth is."
Charleston County voters approved a six-year tax in 2010 that is set to expire in 2016. A new state law allows the Charleston County School District to hold a referendum to extend the tax in November ahead of its expiration. If voters approve the tax again it will be extended through 2022.
The district is estimating that a six-year extension of the tax would generate around $540 million, of which most would go toward major capital projects. The rest of the funds would be used for maintaining school buildings and technology.
Two new schools in Mount Pleasant are among the priority projects including a new elementary school in the Carolina Park development and a second high school at the old Wando High School campus on Mathis Ferry Road. The elementary school is estimated to cost $41 million and the high school would cost $81.8 million which includes demolition of the old school. A new $8.1 million stadium at the new Wando High campus off Highway 17 is also on the list.
The Mount Pleasant projects mirror a report Mount Pleasant Town Council approved last week advocating for new schools.
Other priority projects include several schools in North Charleston: a new $22.6 million school to replace Dunston Elementary and a $20 million renovation of Burns Elementary. A new $42.7 million Center for Advanced Studies at North Charleston High School is also on the list, replacing Garrett Academy of Technology.
School Board Vice Chairman Tom Ducker pushed to allocate $500,000 in core project funding to explore renovating the vacant McClellanville Middle School for Lincoln High School serving grades 9-12. Coats also asked to add a slot in the core projects to fund the purchase of Northwoods Academy in North Charleston to help alleviate projected crowding in middle schools there. The board also agreed to add a new elementary school in the Ingleside area of North Charleston to the contingent project list.
Coats said she was pleased with the ease with which the project list came together.
"This is the way it should be," she said. "It should be a longer, thoughtful process. It should not be a scramble."
The school board is scheduled to vote on a final list of projects at its July 28 meeting.
Reach Amanda Kerr at 937-5546 or at Twitter.com/PCAmandaKerr.
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