Horry County school board votes to move forward with more expensive middle school designs

07/28/2014 11:54 PM

07/29/2014 6:13 AM

The Horry County school board unanimously voted Monday to move forward with new middle school designs that will cost more money than originally planned but strike a compromise between what Horry County Schools needs and what it can afford.

The board approved a $427.6 million building plan in June, which stipulated that architects with SHW Group provide at least one design option that would meet the projected budget for each of the board’s approved building projects. That was achieved with the exception of designs for the North Myrtle Beach Middle School addition, budgeted at $6.6 million, and a middle school prototype that would be used for four new middle schools with budgets between $25.6 million and $29 million.

The district’s steering committee, made up of administrators and board members, has been working with the architects and preferred middle school designs that are over budget. Monday’s vote allows the committee to disregard the board’s earlier stipulation, which keeps the district from spending $200,000 in additional fees on designs that would be under budget but unacceptable.

“There was some give and take, and compromises were made on some of the education specifications, but we’ve found [designs] we seem to believe can work,” said board Vice Chairman Neil James.

The board voted to move forward with a 145,000-square-foot middle school model that can be scaled for 800 or 1,200 students and to amend budgets proposed by board member Jeffrey Garland, who designed the building plan. The new budgets will be $36.75 million for two larger middle schools for the Carolina Forest and Myrtle Beach attendance areas, and $31.1 million for two smaller schools in Socastee and St. James.

The preferred design is one of three the steering committee considered. One option, at 110,000 square feet — very close to the size of the district’s elementary schools — greatly compromised some needed educational components, said Deputy Superintendent Rick Maxey.

James said the third design — which he called the “ultimate” design — at 164,000 square feet, greatly exceeded budget. The larger design featured innovative educational spaces and flexibility for collaborative learning, and allowed for the addition of more classrooms.

The board also voted to move forward with a design for the North Myrtle Beach Middle addition, which is $900,000 over budget. The addition features three wings, but the extra money will go toward adding more hallways for easier connections between the wings.

The steering committee has more work ahead with architects on school interiors, but a full design recommendation is expected by the Aug. 25 meeting.

Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or on Twitter @TSN_VGrooms.

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