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The project to build a new elementary school in Indian Land is set to move forward in earnest with major developments announced during the Lancaster County school board meeting Tuesday, July 31.
In an update to board members, Lancaster County schools superintendent Dr. Gene Moore said the district had finalized the $1.1 million purchase of a 26.5-acre property on Harrisburg Road earlier in the day.
More big news came when Moore offered board members a first look at the prototype floor plan district officials want to build on the site.
Moore said the school selection process included needs assessments by district staff with input by local elementary school principals, design discussions with the district’s architects and “field trips” to surrounding elementary schools.
The team made its final decision after visiting an elementary school in Waxhaw, Moore said.
“What we essentially settled on was that New Town (Elementary) in Union County was the design that best fit the property,” Moore said. “They (the architects) have built six schools based on that model in different counties, the newest version in Columbia.
“What we hope to do is take that design and let it be the prototype for what we want to do up there in Indian Land.”
Bill Laughlin, vice president of Moseley Architects in Ballantyne, said the model school officials chose is a a 95,000- to 100,000-square-foot “E-Plan” prototype, so called because of its layout in the shape of an “E.”
The basic floor plan is designed to be modified and will be adjusted to meet the Indian Land school’s specific site needs and expectations for future growth.
The main portion of the school includes the office, media center, music room, multi-purpose gym, dining room and kitchen along the front corridor with three classroom wings that can be canted at varying angles according to site need.
The standard plan calls for second- and third-grade classrooms in the first hall; self-contained, pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first-grade classrooms in the middle hall; and fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms in the third hall.
With future growth in Lancaster County’s fastest growing community in mind, the plan is designed to allow for the addition of additional classrooms without major modifications to the core building. More classrooms can be added to the end of each wing.
“Our interest is to build it for 1,000, then build the dining room a little bigger so we can build two or three more classrooms if we need them,” Moore said. “We’ll be looking at about 1,700 (elementary) students between the two schools. So that will allow us room for about 300 more students with additional wiggle room.”
Laughlin said his firm is currently pulling together data from the recently completed traffic study and field surveys and is ready to set about the job of finalizing the school’s architectural plan.
“We’re on track,” Laughlin said. “If we get our marching orders today, we should be on track to break ground in February or March.”
Though school board members were not required to approve the design, Moore said he wanted board members to get a first look at the plans in case they had any questions or objections.
Moore said he felt good that the project is on track to open the school as planned in Fall 2014.
“Unless anyone has any reservations on it, we’d like to go ahead and move forward on it,” Moore said.
Except for half-hearted objections from vice chairwoman Margaret Gamble that the firm wouldn’t break ground until early next year, board members seemed pleased with the developments.
Indian Land’s District 1 school board member Don McCorkle said he and others who worked on the selection process felt the building offered many pluses.
Chief among them, McCorkle said, is the fact that the school’s design allows for superior student safety with its multiple drop off points and exits, straight, line-of-site hallways and classrooms for the youngest students situated toward the school’s interior.
McCorkle said the fact that the building had already been built and modified several times meant builders had already worked out major design, construction and other issues, a fact that saves the district money and time.
Overall, McCorkle said he believed the district made good choices both in choosing the school design and purchasing the property well below market value in a location that will serve the burgeoning area in the northern part of Indian Land.
“There’s 12,000 people above (north) of Indian Land schools, and these are families,” McCorkle said. “I think we’re extraordinarily fortunate to build in that area, to get that deal on the land, and I think it was an extraordinary move to try and save money and time and future costs by using a design that has already been build several times.
“I think it was well done,” he said.
More room needed
School board members approved the estimated $15.1 million school project last year to address severe overcrowding at Indian Land Elementary School, the largest elementary and fastest growing school in the Lancaster County School District.
The property for the school is located about a mile and a half north of S.C. 160 across from the BridgeHampton neighborhood to serve students in the most densely populated and fastest-growing area of Indian Land at the tip of the Lancaster County Panhandle.
The district intends to pay for the school’s construction in six years in part through a 5-mill property tax increase last year and a 3.5-mill property tax increase this year.
Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151