CLOVER — EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a series of articles looking at the upcoming Clover School District bond referendum focusing on one of five proposed construction projects.
About 700 students will attend a new middle school on Barrett Road north of Clover beginning in the fall of 2016 if a $67 million bond referendum is approved in March.
The middle school, estimated at $40 million, is one of five projects in the proposed $99 million construction package that voters will decide whether to approve on March 22. The Clover school district plans to make a $32 million down payment to reduce the amount that it would need to borrow.
A survey the district commissioned last fall of about 1,800 community members by research firm K12 Insight found that 81 percent “strongly” or “somewhat” favor plans for the new middle school, the highest level of approval of any of the five projects. Nineteen percent said they opposed or needed more information about the planned middle school.
Mychal Frost, a spokesman for the Clover district, said a new middle school would be built from the same plans used for Lake Wylie’s Oakridge Middle School, which opened in 2009. The new middle school would have room for growth, with a capacity of 1,200 students, as does Oakridge.
“It will look extremely similar,” Frost said.
If the bond passes, “we will be able to provide equitable facilities to students on both side of the district, which they don’t have today,” Frost said of the new middle school. “That’s not to say that the current Clover Middle is not a good facility. It’s just not on par with Oakridge.”
Frost said there will be some minor changes in the plans for the Clover school. For example, he said ceilings in the interior corridors and in science classrooms won’t be as high as those as Oakridge for better energy efficiency.
Students from Bethany, Larne and Kinard elemetary schools would attend the new middle school, he said. Some students from Griggs Road Elementary likely would attend the new middle school as well, he said, but those attendance lines would be determined in the year before the school opens.
Plans call for the new middle school to open in 2016, and for the Clover Middle building to be renovated for a ninth-grade academy during the 2016-17 school year. The academy would allow Clover to delay the need for a second high school by expanding the capacity of its high school to 3,400.
Geoff Dubiski, a bond referendum steering committee member, said he has been pleased with the experience his 11-year-old daughter has had at Oakridge.
“The technology that’s in there, the way in which learning is delivered, they are really a first-class institution,” he said. “The opportunity to build another school that mirrors Oakridge is a key part of this program.”
Dubiski said he and his family chose to settle in Clover after a move from New York about four years ago because of the quality of the school system.
“They’ve taken an excellent approach to using current space, and using operating funds to help expand the district with a very tempered approach,” he said. “It’s one that if you look our five, 10, 15 years, this is the next step.”
The school board chose the 120-acre Barrett Road site for the proposed new middle school last year.
Frost said the board decided against a 40-acre site behind the district office after its construction management firm, Cumming Corp., conducted a traffic study at both locations.
“Access to the site behind the district office had some problems associated with it,” he said. They included that it’s a residential area, not ideal for a high traffic volume, and that the school access site proposed by state transportation officials would take part of Clover’s New Centre Park.
Frost also noted that the land in that area has a lot of embedded rock, which creates construction problems and potentially higher costs. “Do you blow it up, or do you attempt to build on top of it?” he said.
The Barrett Road site, he said, is removed from traffic in Clover, with space for a turn lane to create required stacking lanes for student drop-off and school bus access, he said.
“There’s a lot more space there to do that,” he said.
The Barrett Road site, he said, is also large enough to house a future elementary school, not in the current plans. “It could be a campus that would have a middle school and an elementary school and share some of the outdoor facilities,” he said.
The Barrett Road site also allows the Clover district to have some geographic balance, with one middle school on each side of the district.
School board members have discussed the potential for enrollment growth west of Clover if Duke Energy decided in the next five or 10 years to move forward with a new power plant in Cherokee County.
Frost said some advantages of a new school include upgraded science labs and entrance areas designed with security in mind. Clover last year redesigned the entrance areas of Clover Middle and some other older schools to improve security.
Rose Cummings, chairwoman of a bond steering committee and the parent of three children who graduated from Clover High, said she believes the planned construction will benefit the community.
“You have to have the right bricks and mortar,” she said. “We want to make sure that no matter which middle school you come from when you enter high school, you are equally prepared.”
Cummings said the believes the planned construction is also important for economic development, because many people choose Clover for its schools.
“Continuing to go ahead and to be able to prepare for the next wave of students coming through is incredibly important for this community,” she said. “It really is the jewel in the crown of the Clover and Lake Wylie community.”
Jennifer Becknell • 803-329-4077