By Al Dozier
The District 5 School Board Monday moved forward with a construction contract for a new elementary school on Amicks Ferry Road, but not without opposition from board members Jan Hammond and Ken Loveless.
Hammond sought to delay the project until the district could reconsider the use of property it already owns on Derrick Pond Road. She said the heavily-traveled Amicks Ferry Road site is not the safest place for a school.
The district considered the Derrick Pond Road site, and reportedly spent $60,000 in development costs, but government officials said regulations prohibited the use of the road for schools.
The newly-elected Loveless raised a long list of contractual questions that were reviewed in an executive session. Loveless also argued that the location would require residents to be moving students a long way from their homes.
But board member Ed White said the site selection was based on expert opinions. Chairman Robert Gantt also pointed out that the Derrick Pond Road site was still a usable property.
By a 5-2 vote, the board approved a proposed contract for construction, and the issuance and sale of general obligations bonds not to exceed $30 million for the project. District officials said the project would require a millage increase.
During the public comment period, former board member Kim Murphy reminded the board that the district hired a consultant to do a broad facilities study that was due in September but has not been presented.
The study was to provide a strategic plan for facility optimization by expanding on renovations of existing locations and recommending future land acquisitions.
Murphy said “it wouldn’t make any sense” to move forward with a new school prior to receiving the study.
Leisha Huffstetler of Chapin said locating a small school in a dangerous traffic area doesn’t help the school district operations.
“How is this school going to solve a problem?” she asked.
In other action, the board received an update on the state’s new Accountability Model for statewide testing from the district’s director of accountability, Vann Holden.
Holden said the overall scores showed the district’s schools performed “well above the state average.”
Graduation rates were 10 points higher than the state average. The district’s SAT scores were the third highest in the state.
But Holden said there were concerns about how the reliability of the testing that is being brought to the attention of state officials. Superintendent Christina Melton said State Superintendent Molly Spearman is inviting constructive criticism of the model and will be reviewing possible changes in the future.
A Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for Fiscal Year 2018 was presented by the district’s accounting firm, McGregor & Co. The report included a positive conclusion on the district’s annual audit.
The School Board Spotlight focused on FFA, (Future Farmers of America), a student organization focused on Agricultural Education program. The program provides career pathways to a variety of jobs associated with agriculture. It also provides grants.
The board also received a report on a new health science partnership between Irmo High School and Nephron Pharmaceuticals. Nephron provides certification and assists students in exploring opportunities in aerospace engineering biomedical science and other fields.
The board recognized Springhill High School Principal Michael Loftin for his selection as a regional Magnet School Principal of the Year. Anna Miller, principal at Chapin Middle School, was recognized for her selection as the 2019 South Carolina Middle-Level Principal of the Year.