Fort Mill schools try to keep up with population growth

by: Sarah Rosario Updated:

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FORT MILL, S.C. - It's the second week of school for students in Fort Mill and leaders said within a couple of years they may not have enough space to fit students.
 
Plans are in the works to build seven new schools based on recent growth projections.
 
There are two new elementary schools and construction is underway at Nation Ford High School and leaders said there is more to come.
 
“We've been the fastest growing school district for over 10 years now in South Carolina," said Patrick White, School Board chairman.
 
Every year, the district reviews its 10-year Facility Needs Plan and recently when leaders looked at new growth projections, they realized there's going to be a big need for schools in five years instead of 10, White said.
 
There are somewhere around 11,000 new homes sites that could be built in the next five years. That would bring an additional 7,000 students, he said.
 
District leaders said the growth projections are based on housing developments.
 
Council members in Tega Cay, Fort Mill and York County have approved construction for 35 housing developments. Now the Fort Mill school district is trying to meet that demand.
 
Leaders said the only option would be to build new schools.
 
"That would be four elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school," said White.
 
That's a total of seven new schools with a price tag of $310 million.
 
Leaders said taxes on the housing development would pay for nearly half that cost leaving the rest -- more than $158 million -- to taxpayers, which voters would have to approve.
 
Residents said it's worth the investment.
 
"That's not free and so I think taxes are OK if they are spent wisely," said Michael Troth, Fort Mill resident
 
If taxpayers don't approve, the district will have to come up with another way to meet demand.
 
"Our options are to grow our campuses. We have to educate those students. Or we could go back to the public with another referendum,” said Chuck Epps, superintendent of Fort Mill Schools.
 
District leaders said the new schools would create more than 250 teaching jobs alone not counting staff and support positions.

School Board members will meet again in November to review and update the 10-year growth plan.

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