Voters will decide Tuesday on a $54 million bond sale to expand Nation Ford and Fort Mill high schools, build a new Riverview Elementary School and make technology and security improvements at all district schools.
The bond referendum also includes $1.8 million for turf fields for both Nation Ford and Fort Mill high school stadiums.
Technology improvements of $2.3 million would allow the district to purchase Chromebooks and iPads. Right now, the district has some mobile devices in the schools, including 200 iPads that are spread among the district’s seven elementary schools and 60 Chromebooks at the two high schools.
The bond funding, if approved would allow the district to buy 250 mobile devices – a combination of Chromebooks and iPads – for each elementary and middle school in the district and 500 for each high school. It would also provide funding for software, security and management of the mobile devices, said Rick Warner, director of Instructional Technology.
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Without referendum funding, “we could possibly get some devices here or there, but for a project of this size, we’re totally dependent on the passage of the bond,” Warner said.
Safety improvements that are earmarked for funding in the referendum include upgrades to interior and exterior camera systems, installation of badge door access points on secondary doors and intercom upgrades that allow principals to make emergency intercom announcements from any phone in the building or a mobile phone. The $1.9 million in safety improvements would likely take a year to implement, said Brian Spittle, director of Network Engineering Technology.
The safety improvements were on the district’s priority list before the referendum, Spittle added, but without referendum financing to allow the project to move forward right away, it might take a five year span to be funded, he added.
“Security is always at the top of our minds,” said Assistant Superintendent Tommy Schmolze. “We’re always conscious about security and moving forward.”
Turf fields for both high schools are a $1.8 million item in the referendum. The school district emphasizes minimum maintenance as a benefit, as well as minimal equipment for maintenance needed. Because it doesn’t have to recover from poor weather or wear and tear; It can also be used more often, they said.
The ability to use the fields more often could open the fields up to fuller use by the district’s athletic programs, said Joe Romenick, the district’s Procurement Official, as well as by the community, which could bring in rental revenue.
For residential property owners, taxes would increase $66 a year on a home valued at $100,000 if the bond measure is approved; For homes with an assessed valuation of $250,000, the annual tax increase would be $165 annually.
Officials argue that the crux of the referendum – the high school expansions – would delay the need to build a third high school, although one will eventually be needed if growth rates continue, they say.
Fort Mill and Nation Ford high schools are expected to reach capacity in the 2015-16 school year. Fort Mill is expecting 1,790 enrolled in 2013-2014 and recently purchased two mobile classrooms.
Expanding the high schools would increase the capacity by 600 students at each school, for a total of 2,400 students per school.