Horry County school board warms to new building plan

vgrooms@thesunnews.comApril 7, 2014 

— The Horry County school board appeared to be leaning toward a pay-as-you-go building plan designed by board member Jeffrey Garland that would build some much-needed school projects over the next 10 years.

No votes were taken by the board, but the plan received some support, provided there is room to alter the plan for any future needs.

“I agree wholeheartedly [with the plan],” said board member Harvey Eisner. “It’s realistic, and I would support this with the stipulation the board has the right to revisit it. I don’t want to get locked into something that has a lot of unknowns.”

Board Chairman Joe DeFeo said the board will take a “committee of the whole” vote, which is nonbinding, at the next meeting on May 12 to decide what board members want to do. The short-term facility plan that was approved by the board in September is “archaic,” he said, and lists some projects the board probably will discard.

The board still needs to see tax assessor estimates on the district’s income to see how much money it will have to work with, but DeFeo said he is in favor of the Garland plan.

“The biggest reason I agree is to let’s get going,” DeFeo said. “We’ve been three years on this. We can change direction if we need to.”

Projects in phase one of Garland’s plan that would be constructed over the next three years are additions to North Myrtle Beach Middle School and Midland Elementary School, replacement of the Horry County Education Center and the building of an intermediate or middle school for the St. James attendance area.

Garland said the plan begins with schools and areas that need capacity relief, with the exception of the education center, and is prioritized by cash flow estimates from the district, but construction dates would change if cash flow changes.

“This is just a roadmap to get us on the road and have a goal in sight,” Garland said.

There was some concern about the replacement of Socastee Elementary School, which the board approved as a top priority in February, because it is in phase two of the new plan. Garland said the school is being replaced because of the condition of the building and not because of capacity issues.

There also was discussion of delaying replacement of the Horry County Education Center until programming for the center is determined. The district is considering expanding the center’s offerings to students who need flexibility to avoid dropping out, and not just to students who have behavioral issues.

Board member Karen McIlrath also expressed timeline concerns for getting relief in Carolina Forest for Ocean Bay Middle School, which already is overcrowded and will be at 131 percent capacity in three years.

The district also is moving forward with another board priority – the design of prototypes for elementary and intermediate/middle schools. A steering committee is working with SHW Group architectural firm to design models that will meet future capacity needs and support the district’s educational programs.

A group from that committee – which includes board members, district officials and principals – is traveling to Houston Thursday and Friday to tour five schools with features that could be incorporated in HCS schools.

A visit also is being arranged to Dillon Middle School, a new building that was touted at the S.C. School Boards Association Convention in February.

Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.

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