Fort Mill school officials are scrambling to find land for three of five new schools scheduled to open between 2009 and 2011.
They were relieved when the York County Council recently approved funds to realign Fort Mill's southern bypass. They are negotiating for land along the bypass, and realignment could help them deliver the fourth middle school by 2010.
Two of the other four, all elementary schools, are scheduled to open in 2009 and already are under construction, but the district is negotiating on sites elsewhere for two elementary schools needed in 2011. District officials hope to acquire the additional two elementary sites soon so that attendance lines for all four elementary schools can be redrawn at one time.
"Our desire is to place schools geographically in such a way it would limit the transitions students have to make," Schools Superintendent Keith Callicutt said last week. "If we can plan the lines once rather than twice, we think that's an advantage."
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About $87.25 million of a bond referendum that voters approved in March will fund acquiring sites and building two elementary schools and a middle school.
The elementary schools already under construction, Sugar Creek Elementary on property adjoining Nation Ford High and Pleasant Knoll Elementary on Pleasant Road, were funded through a mortgage the district took in December 2006.
Break for the district
A break came on the middle school site recently when the York County Council approved $162,800 to design a realignment of the Southern Bypass and its widening to four or five lanes.
The school district has an option on 25 to 30 acres to build the district's fourth middle school at the southern part of the bypass. School, county and property owners' representatives discussed redesign options in recent months because the original alignment bisected the land.
"We are trying to maximize the site so we can have ballfields," said school district construction consultant Jim Britton of Southern Management Group. "Land is at a premium, so we have to get as much as we can so each school can have its own stand-alone athletic facilities. That's not always possible, but that is our goal."
County Engineer Mark Kettlewell's bypass realignment recommendation stated, "The county is committed to expedite this project in order to try to meet the scheduled openings of new schools in the area. The county is also committed to secure the right of way for an ultimate four- or five-lane typical section."
School district construction consultant Jim Britton of Southern Management Group said he hopes to have the middle school under construction in January 2009.
The district also has sites under consideration for the two elementary schools slated to open in 2011.
School officials have been negotiating with developers of the Massey residential project off Doby's Bridge Road for land to build the district's eighth elementary school.
Land near the York County Culture & Heritage Commission's planned museum at Sutton Road and Interstate 77 is the proposed location for Fort Mill's ninth elementary school.
"Right now, that is our plan," Callicutt said. "We also are looking at a third site for an elementary school. We might shuffle some things around depending on negotiations."
The state education department considers Fort Mill the fastest-growing school district in South Carolina, and more school sites are expected to become necessary beyond 2011.
Projections indicate the school district will need a third high school, a fifth middle school and a 10th elementary school around 2013, an 11th elementary school in 2015, a fifth high school in 2015-2016 and a sixth middle school in 2016.
The district has enough land at the Sugar Creek Elementary site to build one of those middle schools, but growth patterns indicate the southeastern quadrant of the district is ripe for development by the time a fourth middle school is required.