The Fort Mill School Board decided to hire five architectural firms to design the six new building projects approved by voters last month.
"Sometimes when you have more than two firms it breeds competition, and no firm feels they have a lock on Fort Mill," Superintendent Keith Callicutt said. "It gives a number of them an opportunity to show us what they can do. I think it will be good for us."
Voters approved the district's nearly $96 million capital plan in a March 4 referendum. New facilities and upgrades are needed to accommodate the district's rapid residential growth, officials said.
The board chose LS3P Architects to design the district's fourth middle school, Altman Architectural Group to design the eighth elementary school, and Jumper, Carter, Sease Architects to design the ninth elementary school.
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It also hired McMillan, Smith and Partners to design a stadium at Nation Ford High, and Moseley Architects to design auxiliary gyms at Nation Ford and Fort Mill high schools.
"By spreading it around, we felt like we will get a better price and a better product," Callicutt said.
The board actually voted to allow district officials to negotiate contracts with those firms. Any proposed contracts would have to be approved by the school board before work can begin.
Long-range plans call for the middle school design to be completed in December with construction lasting from January 2009 until April 2010. It should open for the 2010-2011 school year. Architects will be designing both elementary schools from December until September 2009. According to the plan, the construction phase should wrap up by January 2011 for both schools, which should be open by the 2011-2012 school year.
The Nation Ford stadium and both auxiliary gyms should be finished in time for the 2009-2010 school year, Callicutt said. If all goes according to plan, the design process will begin later this month and wrap up by August.
School officials, parents, teachers and boosters will all be involved in the stadium's design process, Callicutt said.
Once the design is complete, the board will solicit bids from contractors and then decide which companies will actually construct the buildings.
Meanwhile, the district is working on land acquisition deals for those school sites and is well into the design phase for elementary schools six and seven, which were funded through an Installment Purchase Plan - similar to a a mortgage - in 2006. One will be built next to Nation Ford High School, the other will be located off Pleasant Road, Callicutt said.
The district is also in negotiations on a site for a fourth middle school. Initial plans to build it on a site adjacent to Nation Ford High School were changed in favor of a new site that will make redrawing attendance lines easier geographically, Callicutt said. He declined to identify the site because the deal has not been finalized.
Elementary school eight or nine will likely be built on roughly 20 acres GS Carolina offered the school district in its Massey development along Doby's Bridge Road. The district also has an offer from Kanawha Development for a school site south of Sutton Road near the future Museum of Life and the Environment. Callicutt characterized the offer as a verbal contract, and said nothing official has been signed on that offer to date.
"Do we expect it to happen? Yes we do. When? I don't know," he said.