Beaufort County using referendum money to add classrooms, improve schools

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BLUFFTON, SC (WSAV) – A happy anniversary for Beaufort County Schools.

One year ago, voters approved a $344 million bond referendum to help rehab and rebuild local schools.

“It’s been an exciting year,” said Superintendent Frank Rodriguez, who was named as the district’s leader just four months prior to the successful vote that saw nearly 70 percent of county voters approve the measure. “Despite the complications caused by the coronavirus, we’ve made solid progress and stayed on track.”

A 23 classroom addition at May River is one of the first projects on that list.

“It was a huge need, the community saw it and responded,” said Dr. Frank Rodriguez, Beaufort County School Superintendent.

The community can now see where their tax dollars went.

“It’s either additional space or additional capacity needed or its renovations that are needed for facilities. It improves the learning environment,” said Rodriguez.

“What this represents to me is the faith that the community has in the process the faith they have in our school district to prepare for what we know is coming,” said Todd Bornschauer, May River Principal.

What’s coming is more students.

The school only had 956 students when they opened a little over four years ago. Now that number is 1500.

Teachers who have been rolling from class to class on carts will soon have a place to call their own.

Special education classes. 4 science labs and 2 art classrooms.

This just one of the new projects that have been verified by the member of the Citizens Led Oversight Committee, an independent group of professional volunteers who monitor all referendum projects and expenditures, have been checking all the numbers. On this day were able to check-in on the progress.

“That goes a long way into inspiring trust and confidence,” said Dr. Rodriguez.
“Have you done a good job of that so far?’
“I think we’ve done a really good job honoring the commitment and trust the community placed in us.”

“We know we have to be smart, honest, and transparent so we can maintain the confidence that county voters placed in us exactly one year ago today,” said Dr. Rodriguez. “And we know we have to keep working hard with our architects and construction firms so we end up with safe and high-quality facilities that provide greater opportunities for our students.”

“We are doing good things for your kids,’ said Bornschauer. “We are doing good things from the physical structure to the people we are putting in the lives of your children because in doing so we are supporting the entire community because this will be the workforce that supports us all one day.”

This project should be finished by the end of the month. Teachers will be able to either move in during December or after the winter break.

Two of the six largest building projects are either complete or nearing completion, one is underway, and the other three are in the planning stages:

· River Ridge Academy – Work on a new wing and two wing expansions (a total of 16 additional classrooms) began shortly after the referendum vote and has been completed. Ribbon-cutting ceremonies were held in September.

· May River High School – Work on a new 23-classroom wing began shortly after the referendum vote and is nearing completion. The new wing is expected to be open in January when students return from winter break.

· Beaufort Elementary School – Major renovation work began last summer and is expected to be completed by November 2021.

· Robert Smalls International Academy – The largest single referendum project calls for a replacement building, with construction scheduled to begin in summer 2021 and conclude in December 2022. Once students and staff are relocated to the new building in January 2023, the old building will be demolished. The school’s new athletic facilities will be completed by August 2023 in time for the beginning of the 2023-24 academic year. One community meeting has already been held for the Robert Smalls project, and a second meeting will be held later this month.

· Battery Creek High School – The high school’s complete renovation will be done in phases so academic instruction will not have to be interrupted during construction. The work is scheduled to begin in summer 2021 and be completed in summer 2023. A community meeting for the Battery Creek project was held last month.

· Hilton Head Island Middle School – Major renovation work is scheduled to begin in summer 2021 and be completed by the beginning of the 2023-24 academic year.

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