FORT MILL, S.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — There are more than 18,000 students in the Fort Mill School District, and it’s a number that grows by at least 600 students every year.
The district says the consistent growth has leaders updating their 10-year plan every year, and they’re getting closer and closer to needing more schools.
“Every year we look at this plan because it helps us determine when and if we’ll need to build schools in Fort Mill. We are often building schools,” said Joseph Burke with the Fort Mill School District. “When you have growth like ours that has been sustained over multi-year, we have to plan for what we’re going to need for students in the future.”
Exponential growth. Two words that school district leaders keep hearing. Burke says they annually update their 10-year facility needs to make sure their infrastructure is keeping up with demands.
“We’re not building projects under bond right now,” Burke explained. “We’ve completed our previous bond projects, but we have just recently started the construction for elementary school number 12. That one is actually being paid for by impact fee money. So that is actually a $67 million savings to our taxpayers that we will not have to include in any possible future bond to build schools coming up.”
Fort Mill is the largest district for enrollment in York County, while also being the county’s smallest geographically of the four. Crews are building the district’s 12th elementary school on Gold Hill Road.
Population growth means they’ll need a new bond measure to pay for more schools, renovations and programs to meet it.
“I have seen a number of schools freezing the registration and all of those things,” said one neighbor off-camera.
He says his concern is that higher taxes could send families elsewhere.
“They are to look at the taxes are not that high, because taxes is also one of the reasons that people want to be in this area,” the neighbor said.
Burke says the district’s reputation is one of the reasons Fort Mill has seen such fast growth.
“The school district is one of the major draws for the area,” Burke said. “We’re one of the top-performing in the state, so we know that we’re kind of a victim of our own success that’s bringing people in. But at the same time, the school district really tries to be very fiscally responsible for our taxpayers.”
Burke says officials can’t say how much construction will cost 10 years from now, but they want to plan for the future. He says people may look at the plan and see that there’s going to be an additional need for high school space. That does not mean there’s going to be an additional high school in that time frame, though.
“That means we have to look at options in the future,” he said. “But again, those are projects that would not be included in this particular time frame.”
The bond is just a possibility, and this is just a starting point. Officials are putting together plans that will eventually go to the school board for a vote — and then a public vote.
They’ll be discussing the topic more over the next couple of months.