FORT MILL -- Fort Mill school officials are hoping the Nation Ford High wing addition and the district's sixth elementary school will be ready substantially ahead of schedule.
Nation Ford's new wing might open at the beginning of next school year, about a year ahead of the original plan.
The sixth elementary school, to be located on a parcel beside Nation Ford High, might be ready for occupancy in March or April 2009. It was originally expected to open in August 2009.
"I don't think it's normal for anyone to finish a construction project early," said Jim Britton, project director for Southern Management Group, the district's planning and construction consultant. "Things are just going well."
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Nation Ford was dedicated at the beginning of this school year and opened with about 900 students in grades nine through 11. Enrollment on Jan. 7 was 931 students.
Opening its new wing a year early would be a special boon.
"We will have the senior class next (school) year," Fort Mill Schools Superintendent Keith Callicutt said. "We could survive, but it will make planning for the next school year a little bit easier."
School construction projects often are completed during the summer, leaving little time for the move. Often, some work is ongoing when students and staff occupy the building.
"We can start moving things in early," Callicutt said of the potential spring elementary school completion. "It will help for planning purposes."
Attendance at Gold Hill and Orchard Park elementaries already is capped, with their students being sent to Riverview Elementary, and enrollment at Springfield Elementary will be frozen beginning June 6. Springfield's overflow students will go to Fort Mill Elementary.
The S.C. Department of Education considers Fort Mill its fastest-growing school district on a percentage basis. Enrollment grew by 54 students from Dec. 3 to Jan. 7 to a total enrollment of 8,772 students.
Enrollment at the elementary schools as of Jan. 7 was: 817 at Gold Hill, 834 at Orchard Park and 966 at Springfield. Riverview Elementary had 876 students, gaining 21 students between Dec. 3 and Jan. 7. Fort Mill Elementary had 773 students on Jan. 7.
'Some things just work out'
The school district already had pushed opening of the Nation Ford wing forward to January 2009 in hopes of saving close to $1 million in construction expenses, largely due to inflation.
Opening may be pushed forward to August due to several factors, including good weather.
"We have built this twice," Britton said, referring to Nation Ford's existing wings. "We were able to get the same contractors who built it before. The site was pregraded. It was a handful of things. Some things just work out."
The new wing will add nine classrooms, two science labs and restrooms on the first floor, and the same on the second floor. The 29,000-square-foot wing has cost $3.9 million to date, Britton said.
The sixth elementary school is based on a prototype design already used for Fort Mill, Orchard Park and Springfield elementary schools. It will include 52 classrooms, labs, music and computer rooms and some specialty classrooms that are smaller. The 101,000 square foot building has cost about $13.8 million to date, Britton said.
Completing the projects early will allow the district and management group to "move on," Britton said.
The district will ask residents to approve a bond referendum totaling nearly $96 million on March 4. The first question asks $87.2 million for a fourth middle school and an eighth and ninth elementary school, plus funds to purchase more school sites. The second question asks about $8.7 million for an addition gymnasium at each of the high schools and a 5,000-seat stadium at Nation Ford.