Crews have one year to complete new Riverview Elementary school in Fort Mill

rsouthmayd@heraldonline.comDecember 24, 2013 

— One year from right now, around the holiday break, crews will be working to move every book, every bulletin board item, every No. 2 pencil from the current Riverview Elementary School in the Fort Mill school district to their new home about a mile away.

The only problem is that right now the new campus for Riverview Elementary is nothing but piles of dirt and clay.

“The clock is running,” said Tommy Schmolze, the district’s associate superintendent. “Here we go, here we go, here we go.”

The final construction bid was approved just a few weeks ago, though the site was prepared over the summer. The cost of the project is expected to be $20.5 million, including the land, school building and athletic fields for community use, the details of which are still being hammered out.

The 53-acre site sits “at the gates to Fort Mill,” Schmolze said, on Spratt Street, or U.S. 21 Business. The school will be nearly identical to Fort Mill’s other new elementary schools, Tega Cay Elementary and Doby’s Bridge Elementary, both of which will open in August 2014.

“Since this is our third attempt at this building, we have a pretty good handle on it,” Schmolze said.

These schools are different from current Fort Mill elementary schools because they’re two stories tall, to save space on what’s becoming limited available land. But each school will be distinct, said Riverview principal Annette Chinchilla.

She’s working with her students to figure out how they can incorporate Riverview traditions in their new space. The object of most concern to current and former students is a big star fifth-graders get to sign on their last day, harkening to the Riverview mascot, the Rocket.

“We’re trying to figure out how we’re going to move these huge pieces,” Chinchilla said. “But the stars are going with us.”

Whether the objects are big or small, moving to a new campus in the middle of a school year is going to present challenges, Chinchilla said, but she’s confident her staff can handle it.

The district shares her confidence, Schmolze said. “You couldn’t just ask any group to do this,” he said. “We have all the confidence in the world.”

Today, the site offers only temporary markings outlining the new building, Schmolze said. The goal is to have all construction completed by the end of November 2014 so teachers can get in their new classrooms as soon as possible.

And although the timeline and the thought of a mid-year move is daunting, Chinchilla said she and her staff are excited – although leaving the current campus will be a little bittersweet.

“It’s kind of like when you move out of the house you grew up in,” she said. “But we will enjoy respectfully saying goodbye to this building and embracing the new one.”

As soon as the current Riverview Elementary building has been vacated in 2015, Schmolze said, renovations will begin to make it part of Fort Mill High School.

All of these projects are part of a master plan to expand the district’s two high schools before eventually building a third.

Rachel Southmayd •  803-329-4072

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