Fort Mill School Board votes Tuesday on $54 million bond question

joverman@fortmilltimes.comFebruary 4, 2013 

— The Fort Mill School Board will decide Tuesday night whether to approve a $54 million bond resolution to help alleviate overcrowding in the district’s high schools.

If the board approves the resolution recommended by the bond referendum committee last week, it will take the $54 million resolution before voters in an April 30 bond referendum.

The bond referendum committee, chaired by Lisa McCarley, David Macaulay and Michele Branning, presented its recommendation for the bond referendum question at last week’s school board meeting. The committee recommended a single question bond referendum that asks voters to approve a $54 million bond that will fund building a new Riverview Elementary School on property the district already owns and expand Nation Ford and Fort Mill high schools.

Nation Ford High School would be expanded onto surrounding property. Fort Mill High School would expand into the existing Riverview Elementary School. The high school expansions would delay the necessity of building a third high school, officials decided.

The bond package recommended by the committee includes upgrades to Fort Mill High School’s restrooms and common areas as well as traffic and code improvements. The committee recommended expanding the commons at Nation Ford, adding classrooms and multipurpose areas and adding safety improvements.

As part of the $54 million bond package, the committee recommended turf athletic fields for both high school stadiums, which would cost approximately $1.8 million. With the additional students expected to be using the field, turf would be more cost efficient, said Branning, and would cost less per use than a grass field.

The committee also recommended district-wide technology improvements at a cost of $2.2 million, including increasing bandwidth to support “Bring-your-own-device”, a program that would allow students at some schools to bring their own laptops or tablet computers, improvements to wireless access at all schools and the purchase of mobile devices for each school.

Safety also addressed

District-wide safety improvements are also included in the bond package recommended by the committee. At a cost of $1.9 million, the safety improvements would give all schools lock-down ability, provide badge access points for secondary doors at elementary schools, limit access to all main entrances throughout the district and add more cameras to the interior and exterior of schools throughout the district.

The safety improvements were recommended to the committee by the district, Macaulay said.

“The biggest thing is security. Every school has had to revisit their security in the wake of the Sandy Hook [school shootings in Connecticut] and so we didn’t want to stand in the way of that,” Macaulay said.

Previous bond referendums held in the district have been broken into two questions but the committee felt that a single question referendum was important for this referendum, Macaulay said.

The project hinges on all of the pieces working together, he said. If building a new Riverview had been a separate question from expanding the high schools, there was a risk that bonds to fund part of the project could have been approved while others might not.

“And we would not have wanted it to be that way. We couldn’t imagine some things approved and some not, given the circumstances,” Macaulay said.

It’s also important to note, Branning said, that this recommended bond package touches every school in the district – not just the high schools and Riverview Elementary.

Every school receives improvements from the bond, at one time, without having to ask voters for more money in the future for additional projects to be considered.

“We want people to ask one time, do a complete package, up front and move forward,” Branning said.

Check back here to find out how the board voted at Tuesday night’s meeting.

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