Pleasant surprises in store for students

Jeff Borowy, deputy for capital programs for the Charleston County School District, toured Jennie Moore Elementary School for the Creative Arts, including this small group workroom. It shares The Sweetgrass Campus with Laing Middle School of Science and Technology.

Workers across the Lowcountry are putting the finishing touches on school construction projects in time for the first bell Aug. 17.

Four new schools are set to open this year — three in Charleston County and one in Berkeley County — and several smaller projects also will greet students when they return to the classrooms. Dorchester District 2 does not have any new schools this year.

In addition, schools in each of the three districts are receiving updates and additions that include new secure entryways, athletic fields, cafeterias and more.

“I am excited about the fact that we will have 3,150 new seats this year,” said Charleston County Deputy for Capital Programs Jeff Borowy. The new schools will have capacity for more students than the schools had previously.

In Charleston County, 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 are looking forward to returning to Windermere,” said mom Carole Smith. “We loved the old school but the new school is going to be so much better, especially since it’s brand-spanking-new and has all the latest technology.”

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

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.

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.

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.

Laing and Jennie Moore, which have been housed at the former Wando High School, 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 schools each have capacity for 1,200 students.

Jennie Moore will have space for dance, band and other creative arts areas, while Laing was designed with its STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) instructional focus in mind, officials said.

In addition, Charleston County plans to open North Charleston Creative Arts Elementary and Murray-LaSaine Elementary in January, Borowy said. North Charleston is currently about 65 percent complete while Murray-LaSaine is about 45 percent complete, he said.

In Berkeley County, Nexton is the first school to be completed as part of the district’s $198 million building and renovation program approved by voters in 2012.

The $20 million school, at 200 Scholar Way in the new Nexton development in Summerville, is “chock-full of new and innovative ideas that will be duplicated in other schools,” said Berkeley County School Board Chairman Jim Hayes.

The 105,500-square-foot building includes two music rooms, two art rooms, a media center, two computer resource labs, and a multipurpose room with a stage, and a courtyard that can be used as an outside classroom. It is the district’s first one-to-one school, meaning that students in kindergarten and first grade will be issued iPads while students in second through fifth grades will use Chromebooks.

The school, organized with each grade level in its own wing, is built for 900 students but is expecting slightly more than 600 when it opens its doors.

The opening means shifts in attendance areas for Cane Bay Elementary, Sangaree Elementary, Sangaree Intermediate and College Park Elementary. Students in the Weatherstone, Carriage Lane, and Tramway areas will move from the Sangaree schools to Nexton, and the Tall Pines area will move from College Park Elementary to the Sangaree schools.

Other planned new schools that are part of the program are: Philip Simmons Elementary and Middle School, expected to open in 2016, and Philip Simmons High School, planned for 2017, both off Clements Ferry Road; a new elementary school in the Tanner Plantation/Foster Creek area expected to open in 2017; and Foxbank Elementary, set for 2018.

Dorchester County, which started a $179-million building and renovation campaign in 2012, plans to open in August 2016 three 1,000-student elementary schools, Sand Hill, Sires and Alston-Bailey. A middle school of the arts will follow the next year.

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