EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of articles looking at the upcoming Clover School District bond referendum, focusing on one of five proposed construction projects.
CLOVER Voters in Clover and Lake Wylie will decide March 22 if they support Clover School District borrowing $67 million for five school construction projects, including a new Lake Wylie elementary school.
The total estimated cost of the construction package is $99 million, school officials say, but the district will make a $32 million down payment. The district currently has six elementary schools.
“Our board has had the foresight to build now instead of later before the need is passed or too pressing,” said Mychal Frost, public information officer for the district.
The district does not use mobile classrooms.
“That’s something we pride ourselves on is being able to provide for our students,” Frost said. “It takes years of commitment and planning from the school board, and support from the community to make it happen.”
If the bond does not pass, however, “for the first time in Clover School District history, you’ll see mobile classrooms,” Frost said.
According to survey results released in November by independent research firm K12 Insight, 78 percent of community respondents favor the proposed new elementary school, while 22 percent opposed it or needed more information.
A total of 1,802 community members participated in the survey conducted Oct. 15 to Nov. 1, including parents, students, employees and residents in the district’s six elementary attendance zones.
The new elementary school – now estimated to cost $25 million, Frost said – will be on about 35 acres on Oakridge Road in Lake Wylie, across from Oakridge Middle School and behind the fire station.
“All of the land being used is already owned by the district, which helps lower the total cost of the projects,” Frost said.
The new school will help reduce enrollment at Crowders Creek Elementary, which is approaching 1,100, just 100 shy of the school’s maximum capacity.
The new elementary would pull students from Crowders Creek Elementary and potentially other areas, with school attendance zoning lines to be decided later.
The Oakridge elementary school would be built for 750 students, Frost said, and designed to have future capacity of 900 if needed. Plans call for it to include a track, which is not available at Oakridge Middle because there wasn’t enough land.
“Oakridge Middle has a track team but doesn’t have a track,” Frost said. “This accomplishes several things with the middle school having access to the track, providing the elementary with another outdoor space for physical education, it gives the community a first-class walking or running track, and it gives the community another athletic field for use because inside the includes a full-size football field.”
Crowders Creek school has undergone changes with the completion of the capital project completed in the fall. The improvements include front awnings providing students coverage during drop off and pick up and the new $5 million central administrative office that opened Jan. 6, which freed up space in the old offices at each wing of the building for special education classrooms, and smaller resource and instructional spaces.
Frost said homeowners shouldn’t expect higher property taxes if the bond passes.
“It will go down because bonds sold in 2006 to build Larne Elementary and Oakridge Middle, those are being retired and paid off so the overall debt of the district is being reduced,” he said.
Frost said, for example in 2007 homeowners paid $136 per $100,000 value and that will go down to $96 per $100,000 in 2014.
“Over 20-year life of the bond, it is estimated it will never go back to $136,” he said.
The district’s construction project manager, Cumming Corp., has been working to complete site surveys and other pre-construction steps so the projects can move forward quickly if the bond is approved, Superintendent Marc Sosne has said.
The new elementary school, which will look like no other school in the district with a “slingshot” or “Y” design, would open in August 2016.
Push to vote
Chairwoman of the “Vote Yes for Education” bond steering committee Rose Cummings said the group has given about 10 presentations and has another 20 on the books through March 1 at local civic organizations and churches, as well as booster clubs and more.
Along with presentations and campaign yard signs and letter writing, the group of about eight are using social media via Facebook and Twitter.
“We developed a bunch of frequently asked questions and add more every week on our Facebook page,” Cummings said. “That’s a good place for people to go and keep up with it.”
Cummings, who’s youngest child of three is now a college sophomore, said it’s important to be involved and supportive of public education.
“This is still my community,” she said. “Education is everyone’s right, and we’re privileged to be in such a school system.”
Cummings was the first PTA president at Crowders Creek school when it opened in 1999. She said the school had a lot of room to grow back then.
“There were whole hallways not being used,” she said. “Growth has been tremendous.”
She, like Frost, credits the school board for looking ahead.
“The facilities are state of the art and we want to continue to keep them that way,” she said. “This bond is a reasonable and sound next step.”
While the steering committee is urging voters to “Vote Yes,” Cummings said it’s important to get out and vote that day.
“It will be the only thing on the ballot that day, so it will be important to encourage people to vote,” she said. “You have to make your own decision.”
Bonds only for capital growth, not teachers salaries and staff, which would come from the district’s general operations budget.
Catherine Muccigrosso • 803-831-8166