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YOU ARE HERE: Home News FI high school opening delayed to at least 2019
FI high school opening delayed to at least 2019 PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 07 May 2013 18:43
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Fountain Inn High School opening delayed to at least 2019

The opening of a new Fountain Inn High has been pushed back at least two years amid concerns that building the school sooner would lead to a tax spike and that Golden Strip population growth hasn’t been fast enough to fill it with students.

A decision on when the school will open has been put off until 2015, but the way it’s set now, opening day wouldn’t be any sooner than 2019.

School board members Crystal Ball O’Connor and Lisa Wells, who represent the Golden Strip, said they were disappointed and baffled as to why the board reversed course two weeks after voting to keep the opening on schedule in 2017.

“It’s a delay that represents the possibility of one delay after another,” O’Connor said. “When something is not reflected as a priority, it continues to get pushed down the road.”

School board member Danna Rohleder, who has opposed a 2017 opening, said she has no problem building the school when there are enough students to fill it, ideally to at least 80 percent capacity.

“I think the administration in this case would be happy with 60 percent capacity,” said Rohleder, who represents the Eastside.

The Fountain Inn high school timetable has been in question since the administration released a projection that a building with a capacity of 1,000 would have 114 students if it opened in 2017.

If opening day were pushed back to 2022, enrollment would be 455 and the tax blow would be softened, according to administration projections.

The district has already bought 61 acres on Quillen Avenue for $2.1 million.

The Greenville County school board voted 8-4 on April 23 to determine the school’s occupancy date in 2015 and for the date to be no earlier than 2019.

The decision was a reversal from two weeks earlier, when the board debated four hours and then voted 7-4 to keep the school on schedule to open in 2017, while the administration gathered community input and researched middle and high school capacity needs in southern Greenville County.

Proponents of staying on schedule said the Golden Strip is the fastest growing part of the county and that they feel the rumblings of an imminent boom. They said the school is needed to relieve Mauldin and Hillcrest high schools, where enrollments of more than 2,000 in each have left some students feeling disconnected.

They have said the administration ought to look for innovative educational models, including the possibility of adding middle school grades to the Fountain Inn high school.

Opponents said enrollment growth has shrunk since the recession hit and that the growth has been skewed to elementary school grades. They have expressed concern that not having enough students at Fountain Inn High would make it difficult to offer adequate academic programs, such as Advance Placement classes.

A 5 mill countywide tax spike would be needed if the school were built in 2017 but not if it were pushed back to 2019, according to district projections.

O’Connor and Wells have vowed to continue advocating for the Fountain Inn area.

While they knew of no specific proposal to put the school back on schedule, Wells said it could be if the administration would look for solutions connected to overcrowding and large schools. The answers might not look like what is found in other schools, she said.

“I doubt it, but I would be happy if it didn’t look like every other school,” Wells said.

Critics have said they would be concerned about putting middle school students in the same building as high school students. O’Connor said both can be accommodated by thoughtfully structuring programs.

The decision on when to build a Fountain Inn high school was part of the board’s annual review of its long-range facilities plan.

Superintendent Burke Royster was asking as part of the review for the board to set an occupancy date of no earlier than 2019 and to give him until the 2014-15 school year to make a recommendation to get a better handle on population growth and establish attendance boundaries.

Rohleder offered the motion that went with Royster’s original plan.

Voting in favor of the Royster plan were Kenneth Baxter, Joy Grayson, Megan Hickerson, Lynda Leventis-Wells, Roger Meek, Rohleder, Pat Sudduth and Chuck Saylors.

Voting against the Royster Plan were:  Debi Bush, Glenda Morrison-Fair, O’Connor and Wells.


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