Renovation projects at York County schools focus on student comfort, safety

rsouthmayd@heraldonline.comJuly 6, 2013 

While students are out on summer vacation, the halls of many York County schools are anything but quiet. Construction and renovation projects across the county are well underway to make improvements before classes get back underway in mid-August.

Rock Hill School District

In the Rock Hill school district, the biggest projects are at three schools, Ebenezer Elementary, the Applied Technology Center and Northwestern High School. The heating and air condition systems in some or all of the buildings at these schools are being overhauled, with old, bulky units being torn out to make way for more effective and energy-efficient systems.

“It just wasn’t quality air in the classrooms,” said Anthony Cox, associate superintendent for administrative services. He was speaking about Ebenezer Elementary specifically, which has had the same systems since the school was built in 1987.

And in each room, crews aren’t just tearing out the old wall unit and putting a different one in. They’re replacing it with a newer, smaller, quieter system and then covering the spot where the old unit was with bookshelves.

“It’s not just a unit-for-unit replacement,” said Brian Vaughan, director of facilities services. “It’s an energy and storage enhancement.”

Other schools in the Rock Hill district are undergoing smaller projects, like spot roofing repairs on Rosewood and Oakdale elementary schools, parking lot improvment on Richmond Drive Elementary and traffic improvement at Northside Elementary.

Other major projects are underway at nine schools to improve safety, including the addition of safety vestibules at front entrances as well as security cameras and secure access systems.

“It brings the public into an area where they can’t get into the schools,” said Cox of the vestibules. Someone in the front office must then “buzz” a visitor into the school from the vestibule.

Fort Mill

In the Fort Mill school district, Tommy Schmolze, assistant superintendent for administration and student services, said completion of the district’s two new elementary schools is imminent.

“They will open on schedule,” said Schmolze of the newly-named Doby’s Bridge Elementary and Tega Cay Elementary.

The district is also working on several other small projects, like an ROTC building at Nation Ford High School and adding and expanding auxiliary sports fields at Fort Mill High School and at Sugar Creek Elementary. Both high schools’ football stadiums are also getting new “turf” fields, although Schmolze said the recent weather has been a hindrance.

“The rain does not help us,” he said.

There’s also a major shuffling occurring with the old district office building, now being called the Nesbitt Building. This space will house adult education and special education programs, among others. Schmolze said that renovation should be finished within the week.

And like Rock Hill, many schools are adding safety vestibules to their main entrances, as well as additional security cameras. Schmolze said this summer is calm compared to what is expected in 2014, when the district hopes to construct a substantial expansion to Fort Mill High School and to build a replacement school for Riverview Elementary.

“These next two summers will be big,” he said. “This is a ramp up for the expansions.”

Clover

In the Clover school district, seven of the 10 schools are undergoing some sort of construction, although most of it is external improvements, said spokesman Mychal Frost. Bethel Elementary and Clover Middle have inside improvements underway.

“These two schools plus the others are receiving more canopies to provide more coverage for students during pickup and drop-off,” he said.

Unlike other districts’ projects, the canopies going in at Clover schools won’t be completed by the beginning of the school year in mid-August. Frost said that’s because the metal canopies are produced specific to the project, so all the pieces must be custom-made. He said it is the district’s hope that the footers will be finished by the end of the summer and that the roofs will be installed in October.

Frost said in addition to providing weather protection for students, the canopies will also serve to define school entrances.

At Bethel Elementary and Crowder’s Creek Elementary, the construction is more extensive. Frost said Bethel is getting a new administrative office and Crowder’s Creek is getting a new administrative building. The Crowder’s Creek project is set to be complete by the holiday break in December.

“Once that opens, there will be office space vacated,” he said.

One vacant wing of Crowder’s Creek will be changed into classrooms for Clover’s autistic program and the other will be switched over for resource classrooms and small group instruction. While the transition is scheduled to be completed in the spring, Frost said these spaces won’t be occupied until next summer.

Bethel Elementary and Clover Middle are also constructing new security entrances.

York

In the York district, it’s a relatively uneventful summer for school renovation and construction, said Superintendent Vernon Prosser.

Some carpet is being replaced at York Intermediate School, and other buildings are getting additional fencing, routine maintenance, minor technology upgrades and aesthetic improvements. Prosser said this was a relief after the building boom York schools have experienced in the last few years.

“We’re kind of back this summer into more of a preventive maintenance mode,” he said.

Rachel Southmayd •  803-329-4072

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