In its current facilities program, the Aiken County Board of Education has left the aging Leavelle McCampbell Middle School out of a five-year building plan – but not likely any more.
At a work session Tuesday, Deputy Superintendent David Caver recommended that the Board members consider the approval of an effort to build a new facility in Graniteville. It would be completed in about five years, replacing the 93-year-old school that has a structure that worries district personnel in the long-term.
However, Caver said the building remains safe for students.
The Board will take a formal action on that proposal at its regular meeting on Feb. 12, but its members already appeared committed to that idea. Board members Dwight Smith and Wesley Hightower – both representing portions in the Valley area – emphasized the need for new construction.
A new Leavelle McCampbell would cost $22 million and possibly more - funding that would come by postponing two other major projects. Renovations at Gloverville Elementary School will be pushed back out of the five-year facilities plan. So would the expansion of New Ellenton Middle School into a K-8 facility, allowing an also aging Greendale Elementary School to close.
A new wing for North Augusta High School remains on schedule to begin in the 2013-14 year; the planning stage is well under way, and site work won’t be far behind.
The shift in plans won’t have any new impact on taxpayers, said Smith. The funds were already allocated for facilities and maintenance, he said.
A new Leavelle McCampbell would be built next to Byrd Elementary School off Bettis Academy Road – itself built in 2008. The land for Leavelle would be offered to the district at no cost by developer Fine-Deering. That action would be well ahead of the school district’s option deadline for the property by 2016.
A new middle school for Graniteville was part of a massive facilities program that the School Board set forth in 2010 – a bond referendum for $236 million to build new or renovate six schools in the county. The election in May that year failed by a huge 70-30 percent margin.
While the Gloverville and New Ellenton projects are also significant, “We never have enough dollars to take care of every need,” Caver said. “We struggle and prioritize and that’s what we have to face: Somebody gets left out.”
As for Leavelle McCampbell, the district’s construction managers can no longer do significant repairs on it, Caver said. Any issue that comes up is simply not feasible, he said. The infrastrucure and systems are just too old to upgrade, he said.
Board member Levi Green represents the New Ellenton area.
“We’re giving that project for now,” he said. “We have to be willing to move it back because the need at Leavelle.”