Berkeley County growth means multi-pronged approach for the school district
Revised Wednesday, March 20, 2019
This photo was taken during the August 2018 ribbon-cutting at Bowen's Corner Elementary in Hanahan. Bowen's Corner and Foxbank Elementary both opened over the summer to serve growing student populations. (BCSD photo)
Berkeley County expects significant growth over the next several years. What that means for Berkeley County School district is a multi-pronged effort for adjusting to growth.
This year BCSD opened two new elementary schools. In 2017 a new high school was opened, and the year prior, an elementary school and middle school were built to serve needs.
For all those reasons and many more, the school district is working with independent groups on measuring, planning and responding to growth. Experts agree there’s no sign of growth slowing any time soon, and data as of September/October showed a need for three new schools by 2023.
Combined efforts from Michael Miller of Numerix Solutions and those at Harding, Parker & Associates have provided BCSD board of education members and district administrators with a roadmap for growth. It’s a robust plan, and is described by Superintendent Dr. Eddie Ingram as “powerful.”
BCSD board chair Sally Wofford described the work as “tremendously impressive” in July when the board approved to fund the work of Numerix and Harding, Parker & Associates as the district works to serve a growing population.
Dr. Tony Parker of Harding Parker & Associates says the role is to develop actionable recommendations for which the board can review and vote. As of data provided in September and October, it was clear the board would need to take action in several areas. Parker said the challenge would be identifying funding sources.
“The decision on building the schools has got to be made within the next two years,” Parker said.
That’s in addition to other recommendations, including but not limited to expansions at some schools and demolition work at others.
School construction can’t be funded by the district’s general fund, so the district will have to work with the county on scenarios like a sales tax, construction impact fees and etc.
Parker said there are things needed at schools across the district. He describes the capital projects plan as “constantly updated, constantly changing.” As aforementioned, he believes a multi-pronged approach is necessary to meet the needs in the next 5-10 years.
“The plan changes with real-time growth and the cost of construction,” Parker said.
As construction looms, Parker said some things may need to be done sooner than later. He says the potential need to redraw some attendance lines, while likely unpopular, should be reviewed.
“It’s about what’s best for students while also working to serve what’s best for the operations of the school district,” he said.
Redistricting could mend some areas delivered a one-two punch by growth. Parker admitted strategic shifts in lines with the goal of such being “as permanent as possible” would allow for wiser decisions regarding construction.
As board members consider redistricting and new construction, Parker suggests demolition and renovation in other areas. He contends the district could save as much as $400,000 per year at some schools if buildings/wings are removed and replaced with more energy-efficient facilities.
“You’ve got some real challenges here,” Parker said. “..You’ve got to consider all the different options available to you.”
Board members are expected to have reviewed data with Dr. Parker by the end of November. He said from there, they should be able to decide upon a 5-year plan and a 10-year plan.
As the plan changes with growth, population forecasts and facilities surveys, Parker said there will be updates provided quarterly.
“These are not outdated figures,” he said.