HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Horry County Schools district leaders have been working all summer to make some big improvements to different schools. These improvements will enhance the functionality of the facilities, make the best use of the spaces, and improve safety.
Some of the improvements include adding loop roads to three different schools to keep traffic off public roads. These loop roads are being completed at Seaside Elementary, Daisy Elementary, and St. James High School.
At Seaside Elementary, traffic backing up as parents drop off and pick up their kids has been a huge hassle and safety concern for the past 15 years. The line of cars would stack up from the front of the school all the way out to Highway 17 Business. Traffic would also consistently back up on 17 Business because there simply wasn't enough distance between the front of the school and the roadway.
So the proposal was submitted last year, and the work was done over the summer. Crews paved a road that looped around the school in order to keep the traffic on school property and off public roads.
"We still have some cosmetic work to do," says Mark Wolfe, the HCS coordinator of design, engineering, and sustainability. "Some landscaping and cleanup, that sort of thing. But all the paving is done and we should be good to go come school day."
Loop roads were also added to Daisy Elementary and St. James High School. Wolfe says it was a unique situation at St. James High. With the widening of Highway 707, it's created a different traffic pattern for drivers. So in the creating the school loop road, Wolfe says crews had to work with SCDOT to make sure they handled it correctly.
Crews also replaced old air conditioning systems that were worn out at some schools. And they also replaced some roofs. These are repairs that Wolfe says are crucial in the humid environment.
"We've had a lot of indoor air quality things that we've been trying to address," explains Wolfe. "To make sure that the humidity levels are controlled. And when you have roof leaks and that sort of thing, that only adds to that. That's really one of the big focuses we've had. Making indoor air quality better."
Other improvements made over the summer, security guard houses and check-in points were added to Socastee High, St. James High, Carolina Forest High, and Myrtle Beach High Schools.
District leaders are very careful in choosing facility projects to tackle. Two and a half years ago the district completed a Facility Condition Assessment. It gave a score to each school on its condition and created a roadmap as to which schools needed extra attention. So far, leaders have been mainly focused on what they call upkeep or sustainment projects, like the loop roads.
But there are also long-term plans to build new schools and make big renovations to help alleviate the overcrowding issue. Using information from the Facility Condition Assessment, crews have prioritized the projects.
One of the projects coming up in the new 2015-2016 school year includes major renovations to North Myrtle Beach High School. These plans are currently in the design phase. The board of education just approved a $21 million renovation for this school. Wolfe says it will be done over the course of a couple years as a phased project. That's because it needs to be done while the kids are in school.
Leaders are also planning some additions and renovations to Waccamaw Elementary School to solve some of the capacity problems there.
There are overcrowding issues at many of the Horry County schools. Last year, the district grew by 1,000 students. This year, the projected growth is 1,200 new students. Wolfe says this puts a burden on the current facilities.
But it's not certain when exactly the district could get some relief. As part of the short-term solution to relieve overcrowding, district leaders have added some modular, portable classrooms. But there are also plans in the works for five brand news schools. Those will be Socastee Elementary, Socastee Intermediate, St. James Intermediate, Carolina Forest Middle, and Myrtle Beach Middle.
Since the plans for these new schools are still in limbo, Horry County school leaders were not allowed to discuss any specifics. There's talk about making these schools very forward-thinking and energy efficient. But no exact details will be known until they get past the design phase. The proposals from interested contractors are due August 27th. If you would like to look over any past documents and proposals for these schools, click here.