All Bluffton schools will be full by 2022, officials say

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BLUFFTON, S.C. (WSAV) – All schools in Bluffton will be at or above capacity by 2022, according to officials with the Beaufort County School District (BCSD).

Even with the two current expansion projects already underway at River Ridge Academy and May River High School, which have added a 400 student capacity, more space will be needed.

That’s are the words of Beaufort County Schools COO Robert Oetting. Even with the two current expansion projects already underway at River Ridge Academy and May River High School which have added a 400 student capacity.

“For the last four years we’ve seen additions of 350 to 400 students a year,” said BCSD Chief Operations Officer Robert Oetting. “If you do the math, our typical elementary school is about 800 students. So that’s needing a new elementary school every two to three years.”

“A middle school is somewhere in the 1000 student range so that means every three to four years. A high school is 1500 students so that’s every four years,” he added.

Oetting says as many as 100 more mobile classrooms will already be needed in several schools before then to keep up.

By 2022, Bluffton students will make up half of all students in all Beaufort County schools.

“We will be addressing this now because our need is for classroom space either for permanent buildings or mobile classrooms,” Oetting explained. “So until permanent buildings are available we will have to address it with mobile classrooms.”

The school system is already in the middle of a redistricting plan in Bluffton. Under it, some neighborhoods will send their kids will go to different schools than they were originally zoned for.

Officials say they are getting some help from the town. The school system is approved to redistrict new neighborhoods even before houses are built.

“That plan was a plan to move students where we could build portables. we saw this coming and needed to direct students to place where those mobiles could be built,” said Oetting.

But there’s no more room for portables or anything else at River Ridge Academy which is already at its 1400 student capacity

It is one of several schools that don’t have any more room for students or to build any additions to accommodate more.

May River High does have room. When it was built, leaders planned out room for as many as two schools next door. Officials expect it to be a new Elementary school or a K-8.

That’s just the beginning of what will be needed for the area.

That’s why school board member Dr. Rachel Wisnefski proposed creating an Ad Hoc committee of schoolboard, town leaders and stakeholders to understand the problem, look for locations and solutions for the future of schools and families.

“I’m very hopeful,” said Dr. Rachel Wisnefski. “I think we have some wonderful representatives in Bluffton that are native to this area that understand the heartbeat of the community and I think we will be able to get some great things accomplished.”

Even if the land was readily available, the school system couldn’t use any of the approved funds from this last referendum to build.

By law that money is only allowed for the approved projects on the list when the vote happened.

One thing that won’t happen is busing kids to schools North of the Broad River. A large public outcry made sure the schoolboard wasn’t even going to propose that alternative.

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