Construction aims to beat school bell

As students raced out the doors when schools let out earlier this month, construction companies raced in to begin renovations, additions and new construction.

That race continues through August to get the work done before students return to school. Summer projects totaling more than $69 million for Horry, Georgetown and Brunswick, N.C., county schools are on track so far. Even the threat of a more-dangerous-than-normal storm season does not seem to have school officials worried.

"Most all of these [projects] could have a contingency plan if we have any kind of weather delays," said Steve Miley, director of operations for Brunswick County Schools.

Colorado State University forecasters William Gray and Philip Klotzbach predict that this hurricane season, which began June 1, there will be 17 named storms _ eight more than average _ including nine major hurricanes and four lesser ones.

Experts at the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center say there is a 75 percent chance that the Atlantic hurricane season will be above normal this year.

Miley said Brunswick County's big-ticket item this summer, a nearly $2 million addition to Supply Elementary School, is already about 90 percent complete; however, some of the external work _ specifically, the sewer connection to the county's sewer system _ was causing concern early last week.

"There's only one real hot issue, and that's Supply Elementary," Miley said.

Brunswick County Schools administration was awaiting approval from the full school board to spend nearly $145,000 of the project's total $225,000 cost on connecting to the county's sewer system. The school has been plagued by repeated failed attempts at providing sewer through a drain field. Administrators originally were waiting for a proposed developer, who plans a 450-home subdivision adjacent to the elementary school property, to build a lift station, which enables the waste to flow better. But the increasing need for more classroom space because of overcrowding prompted the school system to act on its own. The board has yet to vote on whether to approve the bid for the sewer connection.

Miley said modular classrooms will be added to West Brunswick High School, and installation of utilities could be the complex part of that project. Still, he expected the project to get done on time.

"As for getting it done by next school year, we're in good shape on that," Miley said.

Horry schools

Edi Cox, executive director of construction services for Horry schools, said the number of construction projects this summer is higher than average and proper planning has allowed contractors not to fret about the weather.

"Right now, most everything we're working on is under roof," Cox said. "We don't have any major concerns. It's been exceptionally busy with bits and pieces spread all over the county. So we do have more than an average number of projects, but it's nothing we haven't done before."

In Horry County, plans span from the addition of classrooms, gymnasium and miniauditorium space at Conway Middle School to a 650-student Myrtle Beach Elementary School, which will feature a multipurpose room for schoolwide gatherings and will be available for community rental. The North Myrtle Beach Intermediate School should see a multipurpose room, six more classrooms and a new science and computer lab as a result of summer projects. Myrtle Beach Primary School is adding a multipurpose facility, new administration and guidance areas, computer labs and resource spaces.