Fort Mill Times

Fort Mill school board closing in on 2016-’17 schedule

After much deliberation, the Fort Mill school board narrowed down the options for the 2016-2017 academic calendar to two versions during a regular meeting last week.

Under current state law, the first version starts school on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016, said Kelly McKinney, district spokesperson. The other version stipulates that if the S.C. Senate’s proposed second Monday bill, S.1014, passes and is signed into law by Gov. Nikki Haley, school would begin on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016.

Board member Scott Patterson said that at a recent legislative subcommittee meeting, the response to the second Monday start was positive. He said residents should reach out to their legislators if they wish to see the bill pass.

“We’re closer than we’ve ever been before,” he said.

The proposed calendars represent input from a committee of school representatives and parents, McKinney said.

During the March 1 school board meeting, members felt they had two good options, though not everyone will be completely satisfied.

“There is no happy medium,” board member Michele Branning said.

The board will discuss the academic calendar at the March 16 work session, McKinney said.

Building Update

The district’s playgrounds will be getting a face lift with ADA-compliant surfacing and new equipment, said Scott Cunningham of Cunningham Recreation.

The school board approved replacing wood fiber surfacing at Gold Hill, Fort Mill, Sugar Creek, Orchard Park, Pleasant Knoll and Springfield elementary schools with poured-in-place rubber surfacing, and replacing playground equipment at Gold Hill Elementary, Fort Mill Elementary, Springfield Elementary and Orchard Park Elementary at a total cost of $1.4 million.

Cunningham said the old engineered wood fiber surfacing was difficult to maintain and not cost effective long-term. Playground equipment at three schools is 15 years old, and Gold Hill Elementary’s equipment is 22 years old.

Leanne Lordo, assistant superintendent of finance and operations, said the most economical approach is to replace the equipment at the same time as the surfacing.

“When we started this project, we really didn’t consider the fact that the equipment for our schools had either exceeded the useful life or was very close to it,” she said. “We’re very excited about the design work (Cunningham) has done at these schools.”

The upgrades will be funded with $928,200 from the $226 million bond referendum and an additional $497,975 from funds realized in the $3 million bond premium in the referendum, Lordo said.

Sugar Creek Elementary School will be the pilot school, with the upgrades being completed over spring break to give the district a feel for the changes before doing the other five sites this summer, Lordo said. She said Sugar Creek was selected largely due to the school’s special education population.

Despite 38 inches of rain since the project began, Pleasant Knoll Middle School is on track for a May 9, 2017, completion, said Jim Britton with Cumming Corp., a Fort Mill-based construction management company.

Cumming Corp. will receive bids for Fort Mill High School and Bob Jones Stadium improvements on March 29 and present them to the board on April 5, he said. The goal is to complete the Fort Mill High School aspect this summer and the Bob Jones improvements next April.

The board approved $1.7 million to move forward with Fort Mill Middle School and Gold Hill Middle School gym renovations, which includes replacing the floors. The bid is $1 million under budget.

Work continues on the third high school, on which the schematic design is nearly complete, and on the district’s training and support facility, which the company hopes to bid in May, Britton said.

Financials

The district had $64.3 million in revenue and $51.2 million in expenditures, Lordo said.

The House Committee on Ways and Mean’s budget appropriations bill released last week funds the base student cost at $130, falling between Gov. Haley’s proposal of $80 and the State Department of Education’s $150 proposal, Lordo said. The proposed bill also funds a two percent cost of living adjustment on teacher salaries for the first time in seven years.

“It’s very positive for the teachers,” she said.

With more than 400 new homes, including apartment homes, impact fees for February totaled $1.08 million, said superintendent Chuck Epps. Total impact fees to date total more than $39 million.

The district now has 13,211 students, Epps said. Projections given at February’s meeting show that the district can expect more 13,900 students by September.

The monthly attendance award went to Riverview Elementary School with 96.3 percent, Epps said.

Other Items

The Foundation for Fort Mill Schools’ Chili Cook-Off fundraiser on Feb. 27 raked in nearly $10,000, board member Diane Dasher said.

“It’s a nice event to bring the whole district together,” she said. “We don’t get to do that often.”

Board member Tom Audette said the district is continuing to review private security options for schools without School Resource Officers.

@amanda_d_harris, amanda.d.phipps@gmail.com

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