Pritchardville Elementary School and River Ridge Academy are in an area of Bluffton that has seen the most growth in all of Beaufort County in the past couple of years.
Both schools are now exceeding capacity.
Last year, the Beaufort County School District tried to address the growth by proposing a $76 million dollar bond referendum to build a new school, but voters turned that down. Now, the reality is mobile classrooms.
“Throughout the summer, I mean every day, it wasn’t uncommon for us to register 30 students… 25 students in a day and that’s representative of the amount of growth that’s going on in this Bluffton area,” said Pritchardville Principal Brenda Blue.
Six mobile classrooms are the short-term solution for students at Pritchardville.
“The biggest concern was being outside of the building. Because as many of us in education whether it’s a student or in his educator, we’ve had experience with them …. they didn’t even call the modulars. But being in the trailers so each trailer was a separate entity.”
But, these aren’t the old school trailers. The classrooms are connected by a hallway, with bathrooms, drinking fountains, climate controlled rooms, and the same security as a school building.
The modular has two points of access, each requiring a badge to scan and unlock the doors.
“We call it Sammy’s Village because Sammy’s the sea turtle, our mascot,” Blue said. “But the 5th graders look at it like — this is kind of, this is our spot.”
Pritchardville is practicing a new type of classroom with flexible seating, where students have different options for chairs and desks to help focus.
Fifth grade teachers chose to make all of the mobile classrooms flexible.
“It’s been awesome, we love the flexible seating,” Emily Geggatt. “It’s very spacious, it’s been very well lit. We are keeping cool, so it’s very nice in there.
The mobile units are predicted to help with capacity for up to five years, but the school board says they will meet with voters again to plan for the future.
“The plan right now to deal with the overcrowding will be to add 82 mobile classrooms over the course of the next five years,” said school board member Christina Gwozdz. “We’ve got to come up with a plan for brick and mortar that is accepted by the community through a referendum because new construction will be through a referendum or a penny sales tax.”
River Ridge currently has eight mobile classrooms.
Gowzdz also says the school board will likely not try to pass another referendum to build a new school until November of 2019.