Voters in Lancaster County will decide in March whether to borrow $199 million to pay for an array of school projects, including a new high school and elementary school in the fast-growing panhandle region.
The Lancaster County school board on Tuesday scheduled a bond referendum for March 22.
Improvements would be made at schools across the district, but many would focus on the highest growth area in the county.
“The growth in Indian Land is certainly different than the rest of the county,” Superintendent Gene Moore said.
In addition to the Indian Land projects, the bond package would pay for security and technology upgrades across the district, improvements to athletic facilities at all high schools, construction of multi-purpose facilities and playground and kitchen upgrades.
Building a new high school in Indian Land would take about three years, if the referendum passes. Construction of a new elementary school, considered a more pressing need, would come sooner, since land and a design already are in place.
In addition to building new schools and making improvements to others, the district plans to transition what will be three elementary schools to serve kindergarten through fourth grades, the current middle school to serve fifth and sixth grades, and the current high school to grades 7-8.
“That gives us some time to grow,” Moore said, “but again it depends on the continued pace of the growth in Indian Land.”
Lisa Muennick led a community group of 14 people who solicited needs from schools, touring each facility in the district. She said the proposed projects could set the district up for all its major capital needs in the next five to seven years, assuming the current population growth rate – perhaps more than a decade, if growth slows.
“We know this isn’t a permanent fix,” she said. “We just know we need to be ahead of where we are now.”
Indian Land High School now has about 900 students. Indian Land Middle School, a former high school site, is in a transition now to add 400 seats. Harrisburg Elementary was built to relieve pressure at Indian Land Elementary School. In its second year, Harrisburg already is “at or over capacity,” Moore said.
Indian Land High juniors Alexandria Marsicovetere and Nia Pressley said the new capital projects are needed.
“Obviously, it would be selfish if we didn’t support it just because it won’t be for us,” Marsicovetere said of the new high school, which wouldn’t open until after she graduates. “It’s something that’s going to be best for our community. It’s going to make a big difference for younger students.”
Pressley sees the results of high population growth daily.
“Capacity issues,” she said. “It’s pretty crowded now. Traffic is a concern in the mornings.”
Even with a yes vote in March, the district would have work to do, starting with finding 80 to 100 acres on which to build the new high school.
At several schools, classes will be reconfigured to maximize what the district has as it makes way for what it can build. But the first step is getting voters to sign off on how to pay for it all.
State law prohibits district officials from advocating for passage of the referendum, but they can educate voters about it.
“Our job will be to go into the communities and talk about it,” Moore said, “and let each community know what’s a part of this bond and what they’ll be getting for their money.”
What the Lancaster bond package would pay for
▪ A new high school in Indian Land
▪ A new elementary school in Indian Land
▪ Safety and security upgrades district-wide, including traffic pattern improvements
▪ Technology upgrades at all middle schools, high schools and the Barr Street Learning Center
▪ Athletic facility upgrades at all high schools
▪ Elementary school playground improvements at all schools
▪ Kitchen equipment and renovations at eight schools
▪ Renovations and additions to eight elementary schools
▪ A multipurpose facility to serve Andrew Jackson High School and Andrew Jackson Middle School
▪ Multipurpose facilities at Lancaster and Buford high schools
▪ Relocation of the main offices and renovations to the technology center at Lancaster High School