To outpace inflation, open early

Fort Mill

Nation Ford High's new 300-seat wing is expected to open in January 2009, about nine months early, and save the district $900,000 to $1 million in building expenses.

"Inflation seems to be more and more a factor every day," said Fort Mill schools Superintendent Keith Callicutt. "With predictions oil is going to go over $100 a barrel, the impact could be far-reaching."

The school board last week awarded about $3.9 million in contracts on the wing, which will include science labs and classrooms.

Although no final decision has been made, it would allow the district to open a freshman academy in either the new or existing wing.

"Research shows difficulty for students in transitioning from middle to high school," Callicutt said. "Statistically, students seem to struggle more because they are going to a credit-bearing system. Expectations change. Also, that's a challenging time for students' physical, social and emotional development."

Nation Ford, with a total capacity of 1,800 students, opened this year with 900 students. Enrollment next year is estimated to be 1,300. School officials had planned to open the new wing in the 2009-2010 school year, when enrollment is estimated at about 1,500.

Last week, officials decided to save money and open it early.

"Getting it in early will provide us with more space all around," Callicutt said.

In advocating 'yes' votes in the March 4 bond referendum, school officials hope to cite $1 million in savings garnered by opening the addition early to demonstrate fiscal responsibility.

At their Nov. 12 meeting, school board members also will ponder eliminating about 1,000 seats from the proposed stadium at Nation Ford for a savings of up to another $1 million.

In March, the district will ask voters to approve two questions in a bond proposal:

• Question 1: $87.2 million to build two elementary schools and a middle school, acquire additional schools sites and perform maintenance on existing facilities with any balance;

• Question 2: $1.864 million each for an additional gym at both high schools; and a Nation Ford High stadium. Originally estimated at $6.16 million for 6,000 seats, the district could save nearly $1 million by reducing the stadium's size to 5,000 seats, making its size more comparable to the existing stadium at Fort Mill High.

Jim Britton of Southern Management Group, the district's planning and construction consultant, said the Nation Ford addition winning bid came from Lechase Construction for $2.46 million and included $110,000 to expand the parking lot. Other winning bids for the addition came from: Gastonia Plumbing, $325,000; Action Mechanical, $614,800; and Hinson Electric, $535,000.