FORT MILL — With both Nation Ford and Fort Mill high schools expected to reach capacity in 2015, a third high school for Fort Mill has been a looming possibility.
Fort Mill School District Superintendent Chuck Epps announced Tuesday he is recommending a proposal to the school board to expand both high schools, allowing the district to increase the schools’ capacity and push any discussion of a third high school down the road.
At Nation Ford High School, there is room on the campus to expand. But the proposal for expanding Fort Mill High School includes taking over nearby Riverview Elementary School and building a new Riverview Elementary School on property the district owns on Hwy. 21 Business.
Riverview students would not be moved out of the current school until the new school is ready, likely sometime in 2016 or 2017, Epps said. His proposal would cost $49.5 million and would be financed by a bond issue if voters approve it in a referendum. The debt would cost the average homeowner approximately $130 a year in taxes on a home with an assessed valuation of $250,000.
Epps said the referendum could be held as soon as April, 2013.
Expanding the high schools would increase their capacity by 600 students at each school. The district still expects a third high school would be needed by 2022, Epps said.
If the district opted to build a third high school now rather than expand the existing schools, it would cost $110 million. A $110 million referendum would be “a real challenge to sell,” Epps said, which is why he favors expanding the existing high schools.
Building a third high school now would cost the average Fort Mill homeowner approximately $290 a year in increased taxes to finance the debt.
“In this economy, that’s a pretty significant increase in taxes,” he said.
That’s not all: a fourth high school will likely be needed by 2025 if the district’s populations growth continues, Epps said.
Under the high school expansion plan, Epps said, a fourth high school could be avoided altogether, he said.
Board Chairman Patrick White said he favors Epps’ recommendation.
“I think it’s certainly out of the box thinking of how to take care of our educational needs but at the same time protect the taxpayers interest, and it’s really a win-win for both groups,” he said.