Proposed elementary would ease school crowding

FORT MILL -- Fort Mill's proposed elementary school on Pleasant Road should relieve crowding in three of the district's other elementary schools about to burst at the seams: Gold Hill, Orchard Park and Springfield elementaries.

"We need another elementary school in this area as we redraw lines," schools Superintendent Keith Callicutt said last week. "As we look at the overflow from Springfield and Gold Hill, it's easy to see the difference a school in this geographic area will make. With Springfield at or over capacity, we need an overflow school in this area."

Enrollment Monday was 937 students at Springfield, 848 at Orchard Park and 821 at Gold Hill elementary schools. That compares to 769 students at Fort Mill Elementary, the district's only other elementary school.

District officials are formulating a plan to accommodate elementary school students next school year. This elementary school, the district's seventh, and a sixth elementary school are not expected to be open until 2009. Site preparations have begun for the sixth elementary next to Nation Ford High

The school board last week voted unanimously in favor of purchasing the approximate 20 acres on Pleasant Road between S.C. 160 and Gold Hill Road from Ruth Crook Adkins Family Ltd. Partnership. Located across Pleasant from Whitley Road west of I-77, it cost the district $1.695 million.

Officials with the district, considered the fastest-growing in the state, had been negotiating for the property for several months.

"Any time we are bidding on a parcel of land large enough for a school site, chances are at least one developer is interested in the same property," said board chairman Jan Smiley. "During the negotiations for the Pleasant Road property, the landowners agreed to divide the property, and I believe they sold the adjacent parcel to a residential developer. Both the family and the developer are supportive of having an elementary school on that site."

The property and Pleasant Road slope, requiring road improvements for safety reasons, Callicutt said. To save on design costs, the district plans to use a prototype with modifications to accommodate the slope.

The district will harvest and sell trees from the wooded site to help pay the school's cost.

"It's a beautiful site," Callicutt said. "We've made a commitment to leave as many of the large hardwoods on the site as possible. I think it's going to be a beautiful school."

The district will fund the sixth and seventh elementary schools with part of a $70.3 million installment purchase plan loan it took in December. An IPP is similar to a long-term mortgage.