3 new schools opening in August

Charleston County School District Deputy for Capital Programs Jeff Borowy talks about the playground at St. Andrews Math and Science, which features equipment for disabled students and is built on artificial grass.

Workers are putting the finishing touches on $100 million in new school projects that Charleston County School District plans to open in August.

St. Andrew’s School of Math and Science, Jennie Moore Elementary School for the Creative Arts and Laing Middle School of Science and Technology are set to open in new buildings after years in temporary quarters.

“We have a lot of people still here working, trying to hit these dates,” said Harold Lee, program manager with Cumming, the district’s construction program management company. He is overseeing the Laing and Jennie Moore projects. “We feel good about hitting the dates.”

All three schools are set to be finished by early August so that faculty and staff can move in ahead of students’ Aug. 17 arrival.

“We can’t wait to see the new school,” said St. Andrew’s parent Jaima Smalls. “We are very excited for August to get here because we’ve heard so many great things about the new building.”

The projects are part of a $470 million construction program funded by a 1 percent sales tax approved by voters in 2010. In November, voters approved extending the tax for another building phase from 2017 to 2022. That program is expected to collect $575 million, including more than $400 million in capital projects, with the rest for maintenance and technology upgrades for existing projects.

The new schools have features such as multipurpose rooms, media centers and gymnasiums that will be available after hours to neighboring residents.

“We try to set those up so that they become part of the community,” said Jeff Borowy, district deputy for Capital Programs. “The community has access to these spaces after hours with convenient parking and they don’t have to walk through classrooms and hallways to get to them.”

St. Andrew’s students have been housed at the former Oakland Elementary School for two years while the old school on Chadwick Drive in West Ashley was razed to make way for the new structure. Earlier this month, the school’s fifth grade held its graduation in the new cafeteria/multipurpose room.

“Even though they didn’t get to use the facility, they at least got to be the first ones to graduate from the school,” said Borowy.

The $24 million project includes state-of-the-art wireless technology, security and utilities; energy-efficient systems; gathering spaces where classes can work together, a rooftop garden, and a field with artificial turf. The school has capacity for 750 students.

“I like to see the kids move into the new school because you can see the expression on their faces,” said Dallas Gailey, project manager for Cumming, “On this project, the teachers are also going to be like a bunch of kids, wowed about their new school.”

Laing and Jennie Moore are also moving into new accommodations after years at the former Wando High School. The two new schools will face each other on Bulrush Basket Lane off Hamlin Road in Mount Pleasant, at the site where Jennie Moore formerly was located. Jennie Moore has a price tag of $34 million and Laing, $39 million, according to the district website.

“The whole concept is that this building is designed to meet our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) instructional focus rather than the instruction meeting what the building has,” said Laing Principal Jay Whitehair. “It’s sort of changing how we look at building design. It’ll be a fun place to learn.”

Like St. Andrew’s, Laing and Jennie Moore have spaces for collaborative learning throughout the buildings. The schools each have capacity for 1,200 students.

“I’m projected to have a little over 1,100 students next year,” said Jennie Moore Principal Karen Felder. “Not only are we gaining a new building, we are gaining 300 new children and about 25 new staff members, so the face of Jennie Moore is totally changing. When you have a new building, they all want to come, so we are registering children like crazy every day.”

Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.