Fort Mill Times

Editorial: Vote yes on the school bond package

Now Indian Land and Van Wyck residents know how it feels to live in the Fort Mill school district during a sustained period of rapid growth.

The Lancaster County School Board is holding a referendum March 22 to give county residents an opportunity to vote on a proposed $199 million bond package that includes money for new schools, security upgrades, technology, athletic facilities and playgrounds across the school district. The new schools would be built in the Indian Land area, the Panhandle of Lancaster County, to accommodate the tidal wave of new residents, mostly young families with an influx of new students.

We urge residents to vote “yes” on the bond package.

Just like residents and officials in the Fort Mill School District discovered years ago, a population that quickly outgrows existing facilities means larger class sizes, over-crowded halls and adding unpleasant – and sometimes leaky – modular units to campus in a futile attempt to keep up. Despite the conditions, staff and students in Indian Land’s schools have kept a stiff upper lip and, like the Fort Mill school community before them, they’ve managed to thrive. That’s a tribute to education leaders, parents and the students themselves, but they shouldn’t have to go on this way.

There are several differences between the growth in Fort Mill compared to Indian Land and a significant one is that Indian Land is growing even faster than Fort Mill at its peak. That’s scary.

One resident, in a letter about the referendum we published last week, asked residents to vote against the bond. His reason is that even at nearly $200 million, it’s not enough. He suggests that with projections showing Indian Land will continue to grow for years to come, the school board should plan for that as well and offer voters a much larger package to consider. Pay now, or pay later, he reasons, and later it will be more expensive.

That is not unsound reasoning, but it’s not practical. The school board is pragmatic enough to realize that too many voters might be inclined to recoil in sticker shock at a package that exceeds $200 million. Although it may not be the ideal solution, the bond package school leaders proposed in the referendum has the better chance of getting voters’ approval.

The district also is looking at shifting the grades levels in existing schools to create more space. Here’s the meat of the plan at a glance:

▪ A new K-4 elementary school for 970 students will be built on U.S. 521 below Highway 75 S. and Rebound Road.

▪ Indian Land Elementary and Harrisburg Elementary will become K-4 schools.

▪ Indian Land Middle will become a grade 5-6 school.

▪ Indian Land High will become a grade 7-8 school.

▪ A new Indian Land High will be built for up to 1,500 students. Future expansion could allow for up to 1,800. The district also would build a 1,600-student facility with expansion capability to 2,000. The bond would pay for land for the new school.

There’s more, including artificial turf for the football stadiums and Chromebooks for all middle and high school students.

In Indian Land and Van Wyck, the local public schools are the center of the community and a major source of pride – just like in Fort Mill. And like their neighbors on the York County side of the bridge, Panhandle residents need to grow their schools or risk seeing them swamped by growth.

Vote yes on the bond package in the March 22 referendum.