Fort Mill Times

School population growth ahead of projections

Construction workers work on the second story of Nation Ford High School’s new wing earlier this year. The Fort Mill School District is growing faster than previous predictions.
Construction workers work on the second story of Nation Ford High School’s new wing earlier this year. The Fort Mill School District is growing faster than previous predictions.

If residential growth continues at its current pace, the Fort Mill School District could have 18,000 students by the 2019-2020 school year, according to projections.

Mike Vead, senior planner with the Catawba Regional Council of Governments, presented five-year projected enrollments at the Nov. 3 Fort Mill school board meeting.

Using a calculation based on new and existing home sales, the school district’s average person per household as of the 2010 census and the percentages representing school-age children, Vead estimated an average 8 percent increase per school year.

“Fort Mill is one of the fastest growing, if the not the fastest growing at times, district in the state,” he said.

Vead predicts that by the end of this school year, Fort Mill will have 13,355 students. Currently, the district has 13,073 students, including 17 new ones in October, Superintendent Chuck Epps said.

Growth was an issue in last week’s Fort Mill mayoral and Tega Cay City Council elections. Some candidates, including those who won, said it would be a priority to control residential growth in general and try to ease the burden on the school district.

Vead previously predicted a February enrollment of 12,998 students, below the actual enrollment in November. Vead said he can recall only two instances in 20 years when actual enrollment outpaced projections.

The quality of local schools, South Carolina’s tax structure and other factors are driving new residents to the state and Fort Mill, with its proximity to Charlotte, in particular.

Indian Land, which last year gained a new elementary school within the Lancaster County School District – the Panhandle’s fourth public school – and may soon get a second middle school, is also facing similar growth, Vead said.

“They were a little late coming to the party, but they are full participants now,” he said about the Panhandle area.

School improvements

Progress continues on the Fort Mill School District’s new schools and expansions, officials said at last week’s meeting. Pleasant Knoll Middle School’s Early Site Package was awarded at $1.1 million under budget, said Jim Britton with Cumming Corp., a Fort Mill-based construction management company.

The design estimate may also come in nearly $3 million under budget.

While the three-story middle school project is estimated at nearly $4 million under budget, Britton said the team expects that gap to decrease.

The bid for the Bob Jones Stadium improvements has been postponed and will be combined with the Fort Mill High School expansion bid, Britton said. The project is budgeted at $3.2 million. The architect, Jumper Carter Sease, will present the project at the Dec. 8 board meeting.

Both Gold Hill and Fort Mill Middle School gyms need to increase seating capacity and improve the design, said Rob Woodruff with ADW Architects. The plan is to allow for 580 spectator seats and 790 seats for assemblies.

“They needed upgrades,” he said.

Both projects require a fire sprinkler system, a $520,000 cost not included in the budget, Woodruff said. However, the construction cost is expected to fall nearly $846,000 under budget at $1.8 million.

Planning for high school number three kicked off on Oct. 27, Britton said. The school is budgeted at $118.8 million.

Financial report

As of Sept. 30, the Fort Mill School District reported general fund revenue of $12.6 million and expenditures of $19.1 million, a trend common for this time of year, said Leanne Lordo, assistant superintendent of finance and operations.

The district collected $155,000 in impact fees in October.

Other business

▪ Patrick White was re-elected Fort Mill School Board chairman and Scott Patterson was elected vice-chairman.

▪ The Fort Mill School District was awarded the South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff’s Energy Reduction Milestone Achievement award for its success in reaching the 2020 energy reduction goal of 20 percent, Lordo said.

▪ The attendance award for October went to Riverview Elementary School with 96.74 percent, Epps said.