FORT MILL — The Fort Mill School Board wants residents to approve the sale of $54 million in bonds to pay to expand the districts two high schools and build a new elementary school.
The next step is to make the case to voters that school overcrowding warrants raising the money. Voters will have the final say in a referendum scheduled for April 30.
A committee recommended a single-question referendum that asks voters to approve the $54 million bond to pay for a new Riverview Elementary School on property the district already owns and to expand Nation Ford and Fort Mill high schools.
Nation Ford High School would be expanded onto surrounding property. Fort Mill High School would expand into the existing Riverview Elementary School. The high school expansions would delay the necessity of building a third high school, officials decided.
The bond package recommended by the committee includes:
• Upgrades to Fort Mill High Schools restrooms and common areas as well as traffic and other improvements.
Expanding the commons at Nation Ford, adding classrooms and multipurpose areas and making safety improvements.
• Turf athletic fields at both high school stadiums, at a cost of about $1.8 million. With the additional students expected to be using the field, turf would be more cost efficient, said committee co-chairwoman Michele Branning, and would cost less per use than a grass field.
• District-wide technology improvements, at a cost of $2.2 million, including increasing bandwidth to support Bring-your-own-device, a program that would allow students at some schools to use their own laptops or tablet computers, improvements to wireless access at all schools and the purchase of mobile devices for each school.
Almost $2 million in safety improvements across the district also are included in the proposed bond package:
• Giving all schools lock-down ability.
• Providing badge access points for secondary doors at elementary schools.
• Limiting access to main entrances at all schools.
• Adding more cameras inside and outside all schools.
The biggest thing is security, committee co-chairman David Macaulay said. Every school has had to revisit their security in the wake of the Sandy Hook (school shootings in Connecticut), and so we didnt want to stand in the way of that.
Previous bond referendums in the district have been broken into two questions, Macaulay said, but the committee felt that a single-question referendum was important this year because the project hinges on all of the pieces working together.
If building a new Riverview were a separate question from expanding the high schools, theres a risk that bonds to pay for part of the project could have been approved while others might not.
And we would not have wanted it to be that way, Macaulay said. We couldnt imagine some things approved and some not, given the circumstances.
Its also important to note, said Branning, that the proposed bond package touches every school in the district not just the high schools and Riverview Elementary.
We want people to ask one time, she said, do a complete package, up front, and move forward.