Horry County Schools begins process to design 2 new elementary schools

Published: Apr. 25, 2022 at 11:20 PM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - The Horry County Schools Facilities Committee decided to start the design process for two new elementary schools in Carolina Forest.

Four new schools are planned for Horry County as more and more schools hit their capacity.

Twenty-three Horry County schools are already in the “Red Zone.”

Building schools is expensive. The new Whittemore Park Middle School is setting Horry County Schools back $56 million.

So while more than 20 schools are either over, or close to capacity, that price tag keeps the district from constantly building new ones.

This is why they are already looking at how they’ll pay for new schools, and what they can accomplish in the meantime.

Horry County School leaders decided Monday to start looking for design teams to plan two new elementary schools - one on Carolina Forest Boulevard near the recreation center, and the other off Ronald McNair closer to Highway 31.

“Not only do we need to build schools for growth, but we need to build schools to replace some old schools that have been around since many of us went to school in those schools,” said Helen Smith, a Horry County School Board member.

Smith says the only way the district could keep up with the thousand or so students that come in every year is if they were to build a brand new school every year.

That’s why they are moving forward with plans for four new schools, even without all the funding in place to build them.

Horry County Schools will spend $5 million on the design and permitting for two new elementary schools in Carolina Forest, one on Carolina Forest Boulevard and the other off Ronald McNair Boulevard.

The board will start taking applications next month and expects to have a design team lined up by August.

“We still have some schools that are very worn out, that have just been added on and added on and added on that don’t have the same facilities as the new schools for our students,” said Smith.

Two of those schools are St. James Elementary and South Conway Elementary. Once the design work gets started for the two new Carolina Forest Schools, the district plans to get another design team to come up with replacements for those two older schools.

Each of these four schools will likely cost around $50 million, which is why board members hope voters agree to continue a one-cent sales tax that took effect in 2008 to help the district keep up with the need for more schools.

That tax nets the district about $80 million per year.

“It’s a win-win for the community,” said Dr. Ken Richardson, the Horry County School Board chairman. “It’s a win-win for people moving down here. No one is going to pay one dime they aren’t already paying today.”

Design and permitting should be done by early 2024, which should also be around the time the district can afford to start construction.

These schools may look a little different than we’re used to.

The district plans to have them designed for two stories, with the ability to build a third floor, simply because land acquisition is becoming more and more of a problem.

Construction is already underway at the New Whittemore Park Middle School. It is on schedule for completion in June of 2024, so it will be ready for that school year and will fit 1,050 students.

The board members pointed out that the money will have to come from somewhere, so even if voters decide to end the one-cent sales tax, they’d likely just feel the impact on their property taxes.

The board will likely decide to pursue that tax again at an upcoming meeting, so you can expect to see that one-cent tax on your ballot this November.

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